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How consulting engineering firms can deliver a sustainable society


Three significant changes in the approach to engineering design will be required to deliver sustainable projects including:


1. Setting different design objectives

The shift from the traditional objectives to defining project objectives that include environmental and societal goals continues by accommodating societal requirements, which places the consulting engineer in a critical position – responsible directly to the client for agreed cost, schedule, and ultimate performance, to the regulators for adherence to written standards and codes, and in a broader sense to society for project performance to unwritten sustainability objectives based largely on social values. 

2. Formally including stakeholder input and review in the design process

  • To be sustainable, the project must fit into the community and reflect community values and these should be consciously determined through consultation and reporting.
  • A successful engineering consultant will listen to and understand the rationale of these diverse views and work with the stakeholder groups to define the possibilities, prioritize issues, set performance indicators, and report progress to the group.

3. Advocating sustainability assessment as a more comprehensive approach than environmental assessment

It is reasonable to anticipate a future regulatory environment in which sustainability assessments would be carried out in the same manner environmental assessments are conducted today. In this new environment, the consulting engineering industry will need to document and explain project decisions, including consideration of all the sustainability issues and any that are raised by stakeholders in the course of the work. 

It would be much more straightforward and less society-dependent to base project performance on how well these six engineering issues have been handled, namely: water, energy, and material preservation; environment; health and safety; human rights protection.