One topic that has become ingrained in the public psyche in recent years is the concept of sustainability and the need to protect the environment. While most industries have been transforming to take a greener approach, it could be argued none has taken quite as proactive an approach as the civil engineering sector.
The work of civil engineers shapes our modern environment in everything from our homes to our workplaces and highways. Sustainable civil engineering involves developing and adhering to a set of construction practices that allow for infrastructure development while conserving resources, reducing environmental impacts, and promoting long-term economic and social benefits to society.
How Sustainable Engineering is Helping Build a Better, greener future
While there are many considerations in the process of adopting sustainable civil engineering practices, below are some of the more important elements that are helping direct today’s environmentally aware, conservation-led construction projects.
The integration and use of renewable energy sources
Most modern build projects are now constructed with environmental elements, including sourcing cleaner energy through the construction phase. Moreover, modern architects and designers are increasingly looking to include features such as wind turbines, solar panels, and other associated renewable energy sources to minimize environmental damage and help reduce the reliance upon fossil fuels. These sustainable initiatives aid in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions while also helping to contribute to a more sustainable future.
Designing and constructing green buildings
Linked to the point above, today’s designers are increasingly looking to integrate the most eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient systems into their plans. A typical so-called green building will be built to minimize energy consumption, enhance indoor air quality, and design water distribution systems to help reduce water usage and waste – all to increase overall sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint of builds.
Building resilient infrastructures
Few would deny the planet’s climate is changing more every year. In light of the often highlighted impending climate catastrophe, today’s architects and civil engineers need to build resilient constructions. The range of climate-related challenges can vary from project to project but commonly includes taking precautions for extreme weather events, rising sea and river levels, flooding, and increased temperatures. Taking a proactive approach in the construction phase of a project greatly reduces the chances of expensive repairs or reconstruction further down the line.
Engaging with communities and taking account of social sustainability
Pretty much all construction projects will impact the local community (positive or negative), so today’s sustainable architects and civil engineers need to liaise with the local community before a build. This helps minimize a project’s impact on the local community while promoting equity and ensuring the job is as socially acceptable as possible.
Bearing in mind the life cycle of projects
A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is used to evaluate the potential environmental impact of a build through its entire lifetime. This will cover every element of a build’s ‘life’ from the sourcing of materials to construction, operation, and end-of-life removal and disposal.