Carys Aspden, SELA Cohort 2019
Perhaps the most prominent consequence of this issue is the impact on the environment. Josh Gabbatiss (2020) explores how the construction and demolition of buildings in China in 2015 accounted for 20% of the country’s carbon emissions. The severity of the so-called “construction fever” (Xinyi Shen, Greenpeace Asia) in China has been clearly demonstrated earlier this year by the country’s ban on building skyscrapers taller than 500m.
(Day, 2020). In other words, the construction will be assessed on how efficiently it reuses resources and eliminates waste.
Furthermore, whilst eye-watering amounts of money are being invested into extravagant structures, there are so many different communities around the world that don’t even have access to shelter or safe drinking water. In my eyes, innovation should be used to benefit the wider community and world; there is a wealth of knowledge that exists in the engineering industry, and if this is coordinated in the right way, there is potential to genuinely change the world.
Many civil engineering companies are already involved in international development. There are a few programmes set up within the industry, such as the Institution of Civil Engineer’s Shaping the World initiative, which aims to help the UN achieve their Sustainable Development Goals. However, the inequality in infrastructure across the world is still very prevalent; there is room for civil engineering companies to commit to doing more.
RIBA Neave Brown Award for Housing (2020) is a good example of how to incentivise less appealing construction projects. The award recognises the best new affordable housing in the UK, and so hopefully will drive the housing revolution that is needed in this country. This is just one example of how companies can be motivated to use innovation to help people in need.
This post is entitled ‘what does the future of civil engineering look like’, but perhaps a more appropriate question is: What do we want it to look like? Engineers have the privilege that the power to make change is in their hands. As a newcomer to the industry, I am not aware of all the discussions that are already taking place. However, from my current point of view there is a need for dialogue regarding change – in the way we think about engineering – and a shift in the priorities of the industry at present. I hope that the future of civil engineering will look more ethical. I am excited to be part of the change that needs to occur, helping to build an industry that challenges current practices and emphasises the importance of environmental consideration.