Structures, water, computers, languages and people (not necessarily in this order)

How can civil engineers improve the sustainability of buildings?

There are some simple tips that can help improve the sustainability of our building solutions.

First of all, go for structures that are durable and avoid premature obsolescence. The most sustainable thing we can do is to provide structures that will be used for decades with simple and affordable maintenance. Replacing structures is expensive, so it is worthwhile finding out if their service life could be extended. Consider the enlargement, demolition and reuse of your structures. Good engineering consulting is to keep others -colleagues or clients- informed about more than the initial costs.

Then, civil engineers need to select the appropriate material which will not produce much harm to the environment, this is, using eco-friendly materials for the building. There’s a thin line between sustainability and locality. Sometimes the first step to sustainability is to choose materials which are locally found and widely used in the location. Consider minimizing the construction waste, noise and pollution on site. Also, try to understand the strengths of the local manpower and the traditional construction knowledge. Bear in mind that one size does not fit all and do your best to avoid the gross errors of the international style modernist movement.

Finally, adopt sustainable practices in your personal life and read about sustainability as much as you can. Craddle to craddle is a good book to start and get inspired. Whether our green proposals are accepted or not, we always have a chance to make a difference leading by example.

Photo: Bilbao Arena Miribilla, ACXT-Idom

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