Engineers by their very nature seek to solve real problems.
Davidestronati 2017 crop
Civil engineers aspire to solve real societal problems that have a profound impact on communities and the environment. Therefore, we need to recover the central role that engineering and civil engineering have in progressing sustainability.
The ICE has a very meaningful Charter for Sustainable Development that we need to keep paramount in what we do. But instead of considering sustainable development central to civil engineering, I advocate that we make civil engineering central to sustainable development and to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). Civil engineering is uniquely placed to be able to provide the answers and solutions needed to achieve multiple UNSDGs.
It is vital to re-energise the ingenuity of engineers in developing solutions that bring financial, social and environmental value for all – the communities, ICE members, the whole of the UK and abroad. Firstly, this will require the right mix of backgrounds, skills and capabilities. We need to attract an increasing number of diverse students to the profession of civil engineering, harnessing and triggering this aspirational desire to provide a positive contribution to our society.
Secondly, we need to expand what we mean by sustainability. Low carbon and climate resilient projects are becoming accepted as the best whole life cost projects, considering the short as well as the long-term views. But we also need to increasingly consider inclusive social and economic elements at each stage of the infrastructure asset’s life. Socio-economic outcomes and progress are fundamental to our modern society; we in civil engineering have the knowledge and the responsibility to provide evidenced-based solutions that tackle inequalities within communities. Everybody should be able to contribute to and benefit from economic growth.
Initiatives and committees
There are various initiatives and committees with the central aim of making the construction industry greener and more sustainable.
As chair of the ICE sustainability leadership team (SLT), I am working to ensure the ICE and the SLT play a pivotal role in connecting and collaborating with them. I’ve been joined by Expedition Engineering director and chair of the editorial panel at the ICE’s Engineering Sustainability journal Judith Sykes; Crossrail head of sustainability and consents Rob Paris; and Arup chartered civil engineer Shanshan Wang.
We play our role as thought leaders in the infrastructure sector in the UK across the whole value chain – governments and policy makers; asset owners and client organisations; designers; contractors; suppliers and manufacturers.
The SLT will continue to aim to provide the right ideas and energy to progress in this journey towards a better society for all. I hope you will join us in this aspiration by offering your active contributions. The SLT would be delighted to hear from ICE members with knowledge in and passion for sustainability in the infrastructure sector. Together we can ensure that civil engineering can and does provide answers.
- Davide Stronati is global sustainability leader at Mott MacDonald, and chair of the sustainability leadership team at the ICE.