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Belfast conference puts sustainability at top of agenda

ICE news

Over 350 engineers attended the ICE's annual conference in Belfast in June to debate the latest thinking in sustainable design and construction.

For further details visit www. ice. org.

CIVIL ENGINEERING was given a green jolt as consultants urged the industry to add value to society by grasping the sustainability nettle.

Attaining the goal of sustainability will be a long journey, but we must make sure we are moving in the right direction, ' said sustainability consultant Roger Venables.

In his keynote address to the ICE's annual conference in Belfast, Venables called on engineers to stop and think whether they always took the most sustainable option. He insisted that they rarely did.

'A lot of what we do as a profession is unsustainable. Our challenge is to make it less unsustainable, as targeting full sustainability now would be trying to run before we can walk.'

He pointed out that landmark schemes promoting sustainability cannot make a difference alone. 'What we must try to achieve now are modest, small scale improvements that can be replicated elsewhere.'

For sustainability to succeed he called on engineers to concentrate on receptive clients rather than trying to convince the blinkered laggards - who will only ever follow once general practice is accepted.

Building on the ICE Council's decision earlier this year to include sustainability in civil engineering courses, Venables insisted that ICE members who fail to seek sustainable solutions are incomplete as engineers.

In a second keynote of the conference, Herriot Watt civil and engineering education professor Paul Jowitt built on Venables' address by tackling the promotion of sustainability in education. He warned that universities were fearful that they would be swamped with more course material.

'To make this successful we must enable sustainability to be pulled in, to supplement existing courses, ' he said. 'What we must try to achieve is a raised awareness and attitude towards each project. In practice, this will include weighing up the best option out of a range of proposed schemes.'

Jowitt argued that civil engineering is driven by issues and not techniques. Engineers are challenged to find suitable solutions and not choose from a selection of what is currently available off the shelf. This is the opposite, he claimed, to engineering education, where techniques are developed first.

'If sustainability is to be embedded in the new generation then we have to challenge the traditional approach of the education profession which is taught by products of the old approach.'

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