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How has Sustainability affected the world of Civil Engineering?

Wind Far, at Sunset

All businesses are increasingly aware of the need to become more environmentally conscious and the world of civil engineering is no different. 

Conrad Consulting is a leading technical recruitment company in the UK and we specialise in matching top-level candidates with civil engineering businesses.

Here we look at how and why the world of ‘green engineering’ has grown in recent years, and how Civil Engineers, and the Technical Construction industry as a whole, have responded to the increased environmental responsibility and the pressures for increased sustainability.


New Rules and Regulations

There has been a growing worldwide awareness, backed by scientific research, of carbon footprints and CO2 emissions – and the effect these are having on our environment.

The United Nations has set out Sustainable Development Goals and targets aimed at protecting the world around us, whilst individual countries have set out their own objectives.

By 2050, the UK Government aims to cut carbon emissions by at least 80%, compared with the country’s 1990 baseline figure of 592.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. However, it is important to realise this is a domestic baseline target and excludes emissions from international aviation and international shipping. 

Construction projects have historically been a significant contributor to the use of resources and environmental pollution, but advances in design, engineering and a greater awareness to reduce carbon omission has been how the construction industry plays its part in helping the UK meet the Government's Green Growth Plan.

The Institution of Civil Engineers has acknowledged the part the civil engineering sector can play in building a more sustainable future for the planet. It has also stressed how important it is for individual companies to collaborate to ensure that green targets are achieved.


Using More Sustainable Resources

So, what is being done to make civil engineering more sustainable?

Bahrain World Trade Center

Construction companies are using more environmentally-friendly materials such as timber, which is effectively carbon-neutral, and sheep wool which is increasingly being used for insulation purposes rather than a manufactured alternative.

In other cases, using artificial products such as manufactured sand (M-sand) can be a greener alternative, instead of extracting it from rivers and transporting it long distances.  Recycling materials which would otherwise be destined for landfill is another way of cutting CO2 emissions.

Even high-rise building projects can be made more sustainable. They can be made much more energy efficient, with their own sources of power – for instance, the Bahrain World Trade Center (pictured)  has three wind turbine generators built into the two linked skyscrapers.

Companies can use prefabricated components which are manufactured offsite in a controlled environment. This helps to cut down on the time spent on the actual construction site, reducing noise and CO2 emissions. 




Changing the Working Practices

Green engineering also involves being more aware of, and cutting down on, emissions during the process; for example, with the use of plant and machinery. One method of achieving this is by sourcing materials locally, which will cut down on transportation distances.

Green engineering solutions need not be more expensive than conventional practices.  There may be a short-term increase in costs, but this can be recouped in the long term by using renewable energy from sources such as photovoltaic cells.

Buildings often work towards BREEAM certification, which rates the sustainability of buildings in more than 50 countries across the globe. Conrad Consulting’s MEP Design and Sustainability team are experts in this area.


Renewable Projects

Green engineering can also refer to renewable energy projects which will bring long-term benefits to the environment. These include harnessing wave and tidal power -onshore and offshore wind farms also fall into this category.

In July 2018 The UK Government announced £557m pounds worth of financial support to increase off shore developments in the UK.  Ministers will hold contract auctions to developers, every two years, over the next decade, under the Governments energy plans. This will see almost a third of Britain’s power being generated by offshore wind turbines by 2030.

Wind farms currently under development include the Walney Extension in the Irish Sea (which will include 90 turbines) and the Rampion Wind Farm in the Channel, whose 116 turbines will be able to power more than 300,000 homes annually. 

Another growing sector of green engineering is biomass, which involves creating energy by burning wood or other organic matter. In the UK a project is underway to build a £160million biomass plant in Sandwich, Kent, which will be able to supply power to 50,000 homes.

Civil engineers are tasked to find complex solutions to the increased need for sustainability and environmentally-conscious projects.

Supertrees. Sustainable installation in Singapore

Cities can be a challenging environment when the need for high-rise development persists. Projects such as the Vertical Forest in Milan, or the Singapore Inner City Engineered Forest (pictured), are leading schemes in sustainable engineering in cities.

The Milan project consists of two tower blocks which have 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 flowers built into the structures. This helps improve the area’s air quality by removing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The towers are both self-sufficient as they use renewable energy from solar panels and filtered waste water to ensure the plants flourish.

The Singapore scheme  is part of the country’s Marina Bay Development and it contains 18 so-called artificial “supertrees” which generate solar power, collect rainwater and act as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories. Eleven of the trees are fitted with solar photovoltaic systems which convert sunlight into electricity for the conservatories.


Conrad Consulting – A Specialist Recruitment Company

Specialist recruitment company Conrad Consulting can put companies in touch with candidates, and vice versa, in the civil and structural engineering sector across the UK – including those working on green projects.

We specialise in finding the right post for qualified, senior and director-level candidates, either for permanent or contract posts, throughout the UK.

Other areas of our expertise include architecture, building services, surveying, traffic and transportation posts.

If you would like to know more about the civil and structural engineering roles we currently have available, follow this link

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Tags: Civil Engineering Sustainability Thoughts

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