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Sustainability: And You

Sustainability is a popular word, but what do engineers think it means? We asked staff at consultant Halcrow to give their views, starting with the company's new technology and innovation director Tim Broyd.

These days, "sustainability" is a standard part of vocabulary, but a few years ago, when Halcrow adopted the phrase "sustaining and improving the quality of people's lives" as its purpose, the word was only just entering people's consciousness.

So what made the consultant nail its colours to the sustainability mast, and what does the word mean to Halcrow today? "I think people who work here really are driven to do a good job," says Tim Broyd, who recently joined the company as group director of technology and innovation. "Sustainability seems to be almost in the DNA of the place."

Broyd's remit includes heading up Halcrow's new sustainability taskforce, which has pulled people in from across the business (and around the world) to formulate and drive the company's sustainability strategy. "We've got a number of islands of absolute excellence, and we're doing a lot of things that other people aren't even talking about," he says. "My job is to pull that all together, to get Halcrow to a point where it is not just aware of current regulations and requirements, but also involved in developing those regulations and, eventually, influencing them."

Before joining Halcrow, Broyd was chief executive of industry research organisation CIRIA. He says he has developed a "growing personal interest in sustainability", but "not in the tree-hugging sense".

"There is no point saving the planet if you're trashing the national economy."

Halcrow has a strong code of business ethics, and Broyd thinks it likely that the company will eventually take the same view of sustainability, but in the short term "we should be looking to provide clients with the best set of options, and an understanding of the issues".

Sustainability issues are far from black and white, as debates on airport expansion and nuclear power demonstrate, and Halcrow hopes its expertise will help clients find a way through some of the more complex and controversial topics. "You can't look at airport expansion without looking at the impact on local travel and the impact on the economy," says Broyd. "You've got to try to sort out these things together in a holistic sense." The work of the new sustainability taskforce may formalise the company's approach to this issue, but Halcrow staff already have a high level of awareness, according to Broyd.

"When we bid a job we look at the overall risks," he says, "and that increasingly involves looking at the sustainability fit."

Five more Halcrow engineers offer their views on sustainability:

Scott Armstrong, building structures

Shaunette Babb, river engineering

James Best, bridges

Claire Corcoran, ports and terminals

Helen Samuels, water and power

What does sustainability mean to you? Let us know by adding your comments to this article

This survey is being produced in association with Halcrow. For more on the company visit

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