The role of professional engineers in Sustainability
Professional engineers have a significant role to play in sustainability. They work to enhance the welfare, health and safety of all, with the minimal use of natural resources and paying due regard to the environment and the sustainability of resources. Their work is influenced by the opportunities and challenges that sustainability brings. Engineers are the providers of options and solutions to maximise social value and minimise environmental impact.
There are pressing challenges due to the adverse effects of depletion of resources, environmental pollution, rapid population growth and damage to ecosystems. Increasingly, engineers are required to take a wider perspective including goals such as poverty alleviation, social justice and local and global connections.
Globalization brings important opportunities for engineers to promote change through sharing experience and good practice. The leadership and influencing role of engineers in achieving sustainability should not be underestimated. Increasingly, this will be as part of multi-disciplinary teams that include non-engineers, and through work that crosses national boundaries. The remainder of this page is dedicated to the various professional engineering associations that have sustainability ethics, policies, processes and committees.
The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has the following statement on sustainability engineering practices in their code of Ethics under "Professional Obligations.
III. Professional Obligations:
Engineers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of sustainable development in order to protect the environment for future generations.
The NSPE defines "sustainable development" as " the challenge of meeting human needs for natural resources, industrial products, energy, food, transportation, shelter and effective waste management while conserving and protecting environmental quality and the natural resource base essential for future development."
Although not a sustainability policy per se,( and having more disciplines than just engineering) the American Water Resources Association does go on record as recommending "development of a national water vision and strategy for how to best use, protect, and manage our water resources. A national water vision and strategy should be developed to provide a clear framework for sustainable management of our water resources, clarify roles and responsibilities, increase accountability, reduce conflict, improve the integrated management of resources, provide water security for future generations, and save public funds through more effective use of resources."
In 1996, ASCE made the following change its Code of Ethics to make the principles of "sustainable development" part of the canon of civil engineering practices:
Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties
In October of 2009, ASCE adopted the following definition of sustainability:
"A set of environmental, economic and social conditions in which all of society has the capacity and opportunity to maintain and improve its quality of life indefinitely without degrading the quantity, quality or availability of natural, economic, and social resources. "
Sustainable Engineering and DWR. It's a natural!
The American Academy of Water Resources Engineers defines the profession in the following manner: "Water Resources Engineering is the professional discipline for the stewardship and sustainable use of the world's water and related resources. Water Resources Engineers develop and apply scientific and engineering principles to plan, design, construct, manage, operate and maintain infrastructure programs."
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has formed a committee that examines the implications of manufacting products and processes on Sustainability. In November 2005, ASME established the Research Committee on Sustainable Products and Processes. The committee's mission is to study and investigate a broad spectrum of issues associated with the societal, environmental and economic aspects of manufactured products and manufacturing processes. The Committee's functions are as follows:
- Generation of new knowledge and development of guidelines for use by engineers and scientists in product design and manufacture for sustainability.
- Promotion of education, training and dissemination of new knowledge on sustainability science and engineering.
- Identification of need and the support of research leading to development of codes and
- Communication with funding agencies for research support leading to applications of sustainability practices.
- Organization of seminars, workshops, symposia and conferences focused on sustainability of products and processes.
- Collaboration with relevant ASME technical divisions for carrying out the above tasks.