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The Civil Engineers Role Regarding Sustainabillity and the Environment

The Civil Engineers Role Regarding Sustainabillity and the Environment

The Civil Engineers Role Regarding Sustainabillity and the Environment

(OP)

 Would anyone like to inform me of their views relating to the civil engineers role regarding sustainabillty and the environment?

RE: The Civil Engineers Role Regarding Sustainabillity and the Environment

In my view setting a policy of global sustainability fall beyond the scope of any particular practice or profession. This is a social task that needs be spearheaded at global first and then governmental/legislative levels later, of course with the concourse of as complete advisory boards as required.

Then the particular professions will get the required items on sustainability through education, real availability, and scope/range in which to practice. Of course a profession or a professional may or sometimes will necessarily be at a loss without such precedent work/organization. It is like to try to build, say, an skyscraper without the previous development of the sciences of construction.

RE: The Civil Engineers Role Regarding Sustainabillity and the Environment

Tag, go to British Columbia Professional Engineers web site
www.apeg.bc.ca/library/sustainability/index.html
Engineers have some responsibility to society and the BC PEng Association took a stab at developing environmental and sustainability guidelines.
    
    In many cases the choice between using good designs or products and bad is not hard to make, even when the good choice costs a bit more. Don't use asbestos where another product will do. Engineers should be at the forefront of the effort to research, develope and implement better products and design criteria. Of course if the Owner wants to use a less environmentally friendly product because it's cheaper what are you going to do? Tell him to go get another engineer? In a larger sense these issues are not simple. Is the Three Gorges dam project in China good for the people or not?

     Guidelines to produce good environmental, sustainable and cost effective engineering are necessary. One would hope that all engineers follow them. But there is no way to insist on that. So owners will always be able to find engineers to build their projects regardless of the merits or lack thereof. Money Talks. However as the number of engineers applying the best practices increases we should have fewer boondoggles, failed projects, closed plants and wasted money in the future.   

RE: The Civil Engineers Role Regarding Sustainabillity and the Environment

We're still working away at this topic (APEGBC Sustainability Committee) however, we're trying to move on from the guidelines to a more practical level. Started a newsletter called Sustainability Now for engineers & geoscientists (available on the website krd mentioned above). Also writing a primer on sustainability for engineers & geoscientists - kind of, we hope, a more practical guideline that will answer questions like "how does a structural engineer apply sustainability in his/her work?". I agree with isvaaag that it needs to be a global initiative, but in the meantime while global initiatives are taking place, engineers need to learn how to apply sustainability on the ground. This most often manifests itself as "green" technology or "green" processes such as the green buildings initiatives.

For example, as a structural engineer, what if you had the opportunity to choose between 2 materials to design the main structural components of a building: one considered "green" and one conventional. Which one would you use? It's tricky because there will probably be differences in costs, durability, strength... but also embodied energy (amount of energy to create the finished material), resource extraction & processing impacts on the environment, transport issues, even social issues (would you choose to purchase a material from a factory known for poor labour practices?)... Lots of factors to consider. Where to begin as an engineer....? Forums like this help.

Eventually need to go a bit deeper - to somehow incorporate the social aspects into the equation. This is particularly true, and easier to apply, in bigger engineering projects that have a greater social impact. A lot of the time it is simply a case of communication, or lack of communication. The best solution might be to simply form a design team at the beginning of a project to help conceptualize the product or process from the start - rather than just having a few individuals doing it as might be the usual case.

Anyways, have a look at the latest newsletter if you are interested (http://www.apeg.bc.ca/library/sustainability/Sustainability%20Now/SusNow.html) and let us know what you think. The website will be redeveloped in the next few months as it's a bit archaic looking.

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