Archive for the Category ◊ An Engineering Definition to Sustainability ◊

Author:
• Monday, May 10th, 2010

It is remarkable here to give an example of what UK’s engineering principles with regards to a sustainable development are and then using these define the term and its applications in the construction industry in more details ;

According to Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, 2005, there are 12 principles of Engineering for Sustainable Development that should be taken into account and are of relevant to be mentioned here:

  1. Look beyond your own locality and the immediate future
  2. Innovate and be creative
  3. Seek a balanced solution
  4. Seek engagement from all stakeholders
  5. Make sure you know the needs and wants
  6. Plan and manage effectively
  7. Give sustainability the benefit of the doubt
  8. If polluters must pollute…then they must pay as well
  9. Adopt a holistic “cradle-to-grave” approach
  10. Do things right, having decided on the right thing to do
  11. Beware cost reductions that masquerade as value engineering
  12. Practice what you preach

Constructions and Sustainability:

Now the question is that how we can achieve a sustainable construction? Firstly, we should compare the alternative solutions putting in mind the sustainability definitions to achieve a sustainable solution.


Looking at the definitions of sustainability we can see that its most important aspect is the future. A sustainable society is defined to be aware of the needs of the future generations and is farseeing enough. It is obvious that this is not the case in most of the societies. The management and political systems are more based on budgets and current economy rather than how the project will look like or operate after a certain life time. They are more concerned with how a project performs during their political or presidency time than the whole life cycle.

It is not surprising any more, especially in the US for example, to hear that a bridge is collapsed or a water system has stopped working and needs maintenance and so on. For example a report from American Society of Civil Engineers2 (ASCE) in 2005 concluded that 27 percent of 600,000 bridges in the US are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and it would cost $9 billion annually for 20 years just to fix the bridges. For such problems who should be blamed? Is it the erosion and nature to be blamed? Is it an inevitable disaster that no one is responsible for? Or it is the current government that should be blamed? The answer simply is, in fact, no one is actually now responsible for the old infrastructure. These old systems now are subjected to the end of their life time. However, there are some responsibilities about the maintenance of these infrastructures that is out of the main discussion of this paper.

The solution to such problems was 50 or 60 years ago when they started building these bridges, in particular, and the question is whether they had the option of building other alternatives such as Tunnels that are known to have one of the longest life time among the infrastructure buildings. It might have been a more sustainable solution when building these infrastructures. But again we can argue that sustainability is a new defined term and has been taken into the considerations just over the last few decades and the revolution of suspended bridges as well as steel structures at that time was the main encourager for that governments and engineers to choose bridges over tunnels.

Now leaving the past behind and learning from its lessons we should certainly be concerned why governments are still on that old fashion path. Why they still assign the projects to absolutely unsustainable but less pricey options. The problem is further than it seems. It is a political and systematical issue. Policies of the governments to this direction must change from the roots. It must change this based on budget and capitalistic decision making that looks at how much money is available rather than looking more responsible at the issues and being farseeing enough.

To illustrate the point signing the Kyoto Protocol by the US government can be a good example. Of course every American as well as the government wants to sign such important document which is not just about Americans but about the whole world.  It is the system that does not allow the government to sign the protocol. Discussing the failure of the system to respond to sustainability and global issues is another subject that requires its own paper and discussion. Let us hope the new American administration as promised put its feet into this direction and lead the sustainable path.