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Innovation trajectories are observed to be increasingly linked to sustainability [6,4]. Sustainability can be approached from many different perspectives, varying from North to South throughout the world, and from governmental regulations to market considerations. Also, professions each can have their share in working on sustainability.

The business is seriously incorporating corporate social responsibility. Conclusions from a committee of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development first quote and the second one of the leading marketers, Harvard Professor, Micheal Porter [80]. Our focus is on the engineering profession. In 21st century most engineers are expected to be central in sustainability, as S. Sheppard states that engineering and engineers have never mattered more [1].

Engineers are working everywhere in the society, but most of their work is in the industry being the producer of products, energy, and, having an increasing share in the last decades, services. Therefore, engineering as a profession is in this respect broadly defined as being a practitioner in a technological surrounding, working on constructing artifacts in production plants, or the service industry.

Their work increasingly incorporates sustainability. A first trend can be seen that throughout the past centuries, industry gradually moved from primarily focused on profit, to better labor conditions and the past decades, care of the environment or planet [2,7].


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Globalization, increased transparency by better communication inspires and forces industry to subsequent steps toward sustainability, resulting in that engineers have a central role in developing and creating a sustainable world. Figure 1.

Engineering and Sustainability: Attitudes and Actions

Industry increasingly incorporates processes from outside their fences in their business strategy. A typical example is the branch of chemical producers. Increasingly, the branch of chemical companies is getting involved in the whole supply chain, and review the impact of their products, also to the up front part and to the end user phase. Service industries have connections to many companies from different branches and via their information and knowledge providing services can.

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Home Books Science. Save For Later. Create a List. Summary This book provides engineers with the necessary information to design sustainable processes, products and value chains. Find a Project. Requests for Proposals. Requests for Information. Transportation Research Record Online. Publications Index. Research In Progress RiP. What's New. CRP Panels. TRB Publications. All Publications. Requests for Proposal. The codes of ethics of engineering regulators state that engineers must undertake only that work that they are competent to perform by virtue of education, training and experience.

Engineers should understand the limits of their understanding of complex environmental and social issues. They should engage specialists in these fields for their expertise and perspectives in planning and development, construction, operation and the close-out of engineering projects. Increasing complexity and innovation are driving the need for multi-disciplinary teams. Involvement with other experts and peers should occur at the earliest stages and continue as necessary throughout the project life cycle. Engineers acting as prime consultants will need to seek out these individuals.

Engineers acting as sub-consultants will need to know to ask the questions.


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  • For example, issues where engineers should normally consult include climate change, waste management, social factors, macro-economics, risk assessment and others. Central to sustainability is recognition that continuous attention by the engineer related to evolving environmental practices enables integrated decision-making to achieve sustainability and environmental stewardship.

    Engineers should incorporate global, regional and local societal values applicable to their work. Engineers should engage and solicit input from local and community stakeholders in an open manner, and shall respond to their environmental concerns in a timely manner. Ensuring local and community-based societal values are considered in engineering maintains and enhances these values and the quality of life. But local conditions and social impacts may influence the options available and the subsequent engineering actions.

    Sustainable design

    Engineers are often given specific instruction as to the problem to be addressed and the expected outcome. From that engineers develop the best solution. However, solving the problem as given may have unintended social consequences. Engineers should look beyond the initial solutions to better understand the social consequences to the public and account for them in the implementation. Incorporating sustainable development into projects is a logical extension of the traditional broad, but local, view of the public good. Engineers need to consider the wider implications of their proposed solutions.

    Traditional and cultural values of First Nations may be of vital importance in the assessment of impacts of certain projects. Consultation processes need to be planned and executed to ensure that these values are defined and understood by local and community stakeholders. These can be accounted for in the development of engineering solutions to minimize negative social impacts on tradition and culture.

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    Most engineering outcomes affect the environment, the economy that functions within the environment, and the people who work in the economy and live in the environment. Engineering projects however are usually not neutral and can have unintended social consequences that need to be considered. Instead of relying solely on traditional practices and existing permitting processes to protect the interests of the environment, engineers should always be vigilant of the intent of sustainable development from a social perspective. What may be considered safe or harmless to the environment or society in the short-term may not be so over the long-term.

    There is also the danger of externalizing or exporting risk to others outside of the local environment. The health and welfare of the local public may be safeguarded but that of broader community may be at risk. Engineers should establish mutually agreed sustainability indicators and criteria for environmental stewardship at the earliest possible stage in projects, and evaluate these periodically against performance targets.

    Sustainability indicators and measures of environmental stewardship should be developed at the earliest possible stage rather than after the project is underway or completed when adjustments or retrofits to address deficiencies become impossible or cost-prohibitive. Measuring social and economic effects of developments contribute to sustainable outcomes. Local and neighbourhood concerns, quality of life, specific effect concerns e. These have all gained acceptance as pertinent and definable criteria that many jurisdictions are now interpreting and applying to report on sustainable outcomes.

    At present, there is no known system unique to Canada for measuring the sustainability of projects. Engineers are encouraged to investigate systems in other countries and, where appropriate and cost effective, utilize such systems from elsewhere. The outputs serve as inputs to professional judgment. Sustainability rating systems have been developed in the United States, Great Britain and EU, Australia and France that have possible application in Canada with limitations and modifications.

    Typically these system-level tools suggest major themes related to the environment such as: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Climate and several others.

    Principles of Sustainable Engineering | EME Technologies for Sustainability Systems

    Sub-categories within each major theme include topics such as: Communities, Well-being, Innovation, Biodiversity, Energy, Emissions among many others. These systems indicate how sustainable was the engineering design and construction once completed. Four systems and links for more information are as follows:. For other types of projects and especially for comparing the merits of one concept to another, a Life-Cycle Analysis LCA system should be considered.

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    LCA tools are still evolving but several are available. These systems will evolve and new ones may be developed so monitoring and evaluating their application in future projects is recommended. As with any system or process, the results should be used to inform professional judgment, not replace it. It is an interactive process for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. It offers a comprehensive system of interrelated standards covering all aspects of the development and construction process.

    It is a well-recognized system to encourage design and construction of sustainable buildings with a lower environmental footprint. Most of the concepts in LEED are transferable to other non-building projects. It involves a holistic approach to high performance building design and construction.

    It relies upon every member of the project team sharing a vision of sustainability, and working collaboratively to implement sustainability goals [7]. Green Buildings Canada offer a number of tools to plan and implement sustainable solutions that also address environmental concerns.

    Green Building Construction and Sustainable Design

    Engineers should assess the costs and benefits of environmental protection, eco-system components, and sustainability in evaluating the economic viability of the work. The engineering objective is to secure the most sustainable solution that can be cost-effectively obtained. In practice the profession is competitive and subject to many competing interests that constrain system wide and life-cycle thinking. When engineers undertake work, a balance between doing a thorough job against pressures to control costs and meet deadlines must be achieved. Engineers are responsible for the technical detail that will form the basis for costing developments, even if the overall decisions about proceeding with a development are the responsibility of others.

    Consideration of the full scope of environmental costs at the earliest possible stage of project development can often provide considerable cost savings, compared to retrofitting or remedial actions. It is becoming more common in project costing to consider the full, life-cycle costs, from project conception to final decommissioning. If the technical detail for the project life cycle fails to consider the full scope of environmental costs, then project decision makers may reach an invalid decision about the true economic viability of a project.