Sustainable Development and Green Design – who is leading the green initiative?

Sustainable Development and Green Design – who is leading the green initiative?

Sustainable Development and Green Design – who is leading the green initiative?

An article published back on October 2007 by Melissa Bilec, Robert Ries, and H. Scott Mathews points out the responsibility of civil engineers with their communities by stating that civil engineers not only have to accept new policies on sustainability but to also inform and instruct the policy makers, owners and public officials about them. This means, engineers must take a role of leadership on the matter; otherwise sustainable development and green design won’t be applied in every project any time soon.

One of the suggestions to guide engineers on the path of green design is engaging in an interdisciplinary approach with students to promote a shift in federal and local policy, as well as educating the public. By doing this, students will realize the important place civil engineers have with regards to sustainable development.

It is a step forward to address this issue at Universities and Colleges; mainly because schools could be the first contact where students learn, engage and apply methods that put us all in the path of sustainability.

Even though efforts, such as the previous one, have been made a survey conducted by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) shows practicing engineers are not as involved as they should be.  Making us all think, why is that?

There could be many factors to this. The ones mentioned on the publication are ASCE revision to the Code of Ethics regarding sustainable development, the civil engineer’s skills set, and Federal and local design and Policy Issues.

On the ASCE revision to the Code of Ethics authors Vesilind and Gunn (1998) said ASCE change its Code to improve only its public image because just a minor amendment was made to the 1st canon instead of adding a new 8th canon that would have portrayed a strong commitment with sustainability. In spite of the modification, the Code has not proportioned any specific guidance on the issue.

Another reason could be that it is a requirement to learn and apply new skills that are acquired through interdisciplinary experiences, reasoning techniques and quantification applications. This means, engineers need a general understanding on the matter and work with other designers and scientist.

Let’s not forget that federal and local design and policy issues are crucial to successfully demand and implement sustainable solutions. These policies may vary from city to city, but they are the ones that have the greatest impact on engineers, developers and society.

As we can see, sustainability is an issue that must be approach by many professionals; but it definitely depends upon the official regulations as they can demand better designs.

Finally, there’s set of proposals that are mention on the article:

The civil engineering curriculum should incorporate sustainability and green design courses, and these themes should be threaded through existing traditional engineering courses. Civil engineering programs should promote problem solving by using both inductive and deductive approaches, as well as a strong understanding of biological and social sciences.

From the policy and community viewpoint, several federal agencies have a strong policy toward green design. […] A strong education, mentors, and informed stakeholders will provide a necessary foundation toward a sustainable future. […] All levels of management, government, and design must contribute to the sustainable transformation of any given project. Educated civil engineers can inform developers, the public, and policymakers of the benefits and trade-offs associated with sustainable design. […]. (Bilec, Melissa; Ries, Robert; Matthews, H. Scott, 2007)


If you are interested in reading the full article, you can find it in the following link:

Elizabeth De Leon Gonzalez



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