Civil, Structural and Construction Engineering
Structural engineers face significant challenges in the 21st century and among them, global environmental challenges must be a priority for our profession. On a planet with finite natural resources and an ever-growing built environment, engineers of the future must consider the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of structural design. To achieve a more sustainable built environment, engineers must be involved at every stage of the process. To address the broad issue of sustainability for structural engineers, this paper is divided into three sections: 1) Global environmental impact: The trends in steel and concrete consumption worldwide illustrate the growing environmental impact of structural design. In particular, the emissions of greenhouse gases due to structural materials are a primary global concern that all structural engineers should consider. 2) Solutions for today: There are many steps that each structural engineer can take to mitigate the environmental impact of structural design. Furthermore, there is growing demand for engineers who are knowledgeable of environmental issues in construction. This section presents several options that are available today for engineers interested in reducing environmental impacts. Case studies will illustrate examples of more sustainable structural design. 3) Challenges for the future: Although short-term solutions exist to reduce the environmental impact of construction, there are significant long-term challenges that we must address as a profession. By facing these challenges, we can take a leadership role in matters of vital global importance. In summary, the paper identifies the global sustainability challenges facing our profession and suggests possible solutions. The conclusion is that structural engineering has an enormous global environmental impact and our profession should work harder to offer solutions to society. Working for a more sustainable built environment is in the best interest of our profession as well as the interest of future generations.