Engineering role in sustainability Jordi Segalàs Institute of Sustainability Barcelona Tech University
Which role can engineering play in sustainable development?
Serving Needs, or Quality of Life, or Wants?• “Traditional cultures, having more limited means to satisfy human needs, tend to meet as many needs as possible with as few resources as possible.• In contrast, industrial capitalism emphasises the creation of specialised products that fight for market niches to fill ‘needs’ that, as often as not, cannot be satisfied by material goods. (Natural Capitalism, Ch. 14)
Example: which of these is more worth an engineer’s energy & interest?Hasbros Tooth Tunes toothbrushes have an MP3 playerbuilt in. They use bone-conduction to rattle the sound throughyour teeth for 3 minutes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ViXgz0pGjQ&feature=related
Example: which of these is more worth an engineer’s energy & interest? Design of Temporary Shelters for RefugeesThousands of refugee deaths fromhypothermia could be prevented everyyear if a new hi-tech UK-designed tentlining performs well in tests inAfghanistan. A team from the Universityof Cambridge has developed linings forexisting refugee tents that will pay forthemselves in saved heating costs in onewinter.They are made of a sandwich ofmaterials: polyester wadding like youdfind in a puffa jacket and a cheapbreathable waterproof membrane.
Choosing what you are engineering for - engineers can’t be neutral Luxury OK NEVER NEVERAffluence Quality GOOD MAYBE NEVER Needs BRILLIANT GOOD MAYBE Technology No net impact In - between High impact
Engineers’ reputation as professionals, notmercenaries - whose interests do we serve? • “Video toothbrush” • “In development by OK NEVER NEVER Panasonic, this electric toothbrush has a miniature video camera mounted beside the bristles to allow the user to see GOOD MAYBE on a monitor the NEVER ‘40%’ of debris they normally miss.” • (TYNKYN - EC 11/01) BRILLIANT GOOD MAYBE
What do you think? -• Engineering is never neutral - every product or project - or research topic - lies somewhere on that matrix, and is going to affect the sustainable/unsustainable balance…. SO:• What are the social responsibilities of engineering – whom do we want to serve?
What defines a socially sustainable product?• Is being manufactured sustainably enough, whatever the product’s social impact?• Or, should engineers push for socially sustainable features in the products: for instance….affordability and accessibility for the ‘excluded’ - the poorest 10%?• Or, should we put our energy and interest into products and projects which serve ‘needs’ rather than artificially created ‘wants’?
Enterprise relation to SocietyThe company is part of a supply chain, with suppliers and customers and a market, our share of which we hope to increase. Products flow through that supply chain in one direction; money flows in the other direction.
• service oriented• resource-efficient• wasting nothing• solar driven• cyclical (no longer take-make- waste linear)• strongly connected to stakeholders: communities (building social equity), customers, and suppliers— and to one another.• Our communities are stronger and better educated
7. Redesign of commerce Redesigning commerce probably hinges, more than anything else, on the acceptance of entirely new notions of economics, especially prices that reflect full costs. It means shifting emphasis from simply selling products to providing services Relationships based on delivering, via leasing agreements, the services our products provide, in lieu of the products themselves
7. Redesign of commerceOther examples:Photocopies: Xerox: Sells copy services instead of copy machines.Elevator: Schindler, Sells vertical transport maintenance free instead of elevatorsWe can go farther:In ICT: You can buy hours of word editor instead of hardwareand software.In civil engineering: you can provide the service: connectionbetween two places instead of roads. The enterprise isresponsible for maintenance, in case of interruption enterpriseis fined.
Redefine engineering culture away from‘Building things’ to ‘meeting needs sustainably’? The 19th (& 20th?) Century Engineer The 21st Century Engineer I built all I didn’t need this! to build anything new! Visible construction, at great public Providing and Refurbishing the expense, to meet society’s wants minimum to meet society’s needs
Engineers provide the interfaces... • Becoming Products sustainable requires leaders who recognise this world view, and act Economy accordingly. - invented! Society - instinctive?Infrastructure Environment - ‘inevitable’
Thank you for your attention!Professor Jordi SegalasInstitute of SustainabilityBarcelona Tech unviersityBarcelona, Catalunya