IStructE Core Objective 2.4 – Environment
The IStructE is referring to the environment here in the broadest sense, therefore there is a wide variety of subjects which may be relevant to meeting this objective, so it's unlikely that you'll need to do any extra work to achieve this one – it is just a case of demonstrating what you already know.
The guidance says:
“Candidates should promote the message of sustainability through their words and actions”.
There is a subtle difference between environment, the title of this core objective and sustainability, as their guidance states. This can be somewhat confusing as the former is a a subset of the latter. Sustainable development balances three key areas: environmental, social and financial. You should demonstrate that you have knowledge level in environmental and social, and if possible financial too.
A good starting point is one of the most widely quoted definitions of sustainability, written by Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1987 from her report “Our Common Future”:
[…Sustainable] development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Demonstrating your competence
The examiner will want to see that you're aware that every construction project has environmental impacts, no matter how small. You then need to demonstrate knowledge of how to respond to these impacts. There are a number of areas you could mention:
- BREEAM & LEED assessment: These tools allow the environmental performance of a building to be measured in order to get an idea of how sustainable it is. Projects are then awarded a grade based on how well they perform. If you have worked on a project that adopted one of these methods then you will likely have worked with a specialist consultant to gather the information required, and will be familiar with the tabulated documents they use to keep track of all the objectives.
- Embodied carbon: Structural engineers are responsible for the superstructure and foundation of a building, which often make up around 50% of the overall embodied carbon emissions. You may have been involved in calculating the embodied carbon on one of your projects, or making a comparison between two solutions based on their carbon footprint.
- Operational carbon: This is the energy required to run the building throughout its lifetime. Structural engineers are less directly involved in this area, but the structure can have a big impact on the energy efficiency of a building, and you may have worked with the M&E engineer to develop the best structural solution for their environmental strategy.
- Protection of wildlife and vegetation: This is of concern to engineers working on site, and you may have been involved in putting to together wildlife management plans for minimizing the impact of your project on the local wildlife. You may have selected a construction method which is less disruptive to vegetation.
- Radon gas & contaminated land: The site investigation will often test soil samples to identify contamination. The geotechnical engineer will identify pathways for the contaminants to affect users of the site, and these pathways need to be cut off to make the site safe for all users. This may involve specifying protection membranes or soil remediation, or capping, or soil removal.
What to say in your final report:
- Describe how you measured/reduced environmental impact on your project
- State if you have worked with environmental consultants and how you interacted
- Give an example of where you made a design choice for environmental reasons.
What to put in your portfolio:
- Minutes from meeting with environmental engineer
- Email/correspondence between you and an environmental engineer for example with your comments on their BREEAM assessment table
- Your calculations of embodied carbon for your project
- Our Common Future, aka. “Brundtland Report” – World Commission On Environment and Development World Commission On Environment and Development
- Building with reclaimed components and materials: a design handbook for reuse and recycling – Addis, W.
- Sustainable infrastructure: principles into practice – Ainger, C.
- Ecology of building materials – Berge, B.
- Guide to sustainable procurement in construction. CIRIA C695 – CIRIA
- Building for a sustainable future: an engineer’s guide – IStructE
- Engineering a Better World – Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – Royal Academy of Engineering