Just recently, I again came across the word survivability, this time as the “revised and updated” concept beyond sustainability. (The Meaning of the 21st Century, James Martin). Mr. Martin contends that we have passed the point of being able to sustain the current levels of resource consumption, and are now needing solutions which will reverse the trend to hopefully get us through that bottleneck in the future where the escalating line of consumption will veer close to the decreasing line of material resources. The outcome is as yet very uncertain.
|The Story of James Martin|
Getting back to the world of construction, how do we change from our risk-averse, silo-centric, lawsuit happy culture to one who seeks continuous improvement and respect for humanity, or in the broader sense – the entire planet? Can we get beyond sustaining the status quo, really dig in and find solutions to our core problems, and then "innoculate" against future problems? Can construction become part of the sustainability/ survivability solution?
Just how does one change a culture - such as construction? The change agent needs to be someone who is well respected, whose word is generally accepted, and who is involved in most projects. … Lest I hurt any fealings, let me just say that architects and contractors didn’t quite fit the bill – but … the engineers… The very word means to make something. And whether you agree or not, it is difficult to argue with engineers because they bring solid - well “engineering” - to a project, and unless you can refute like with like, then concessions are in typically in order. ( mind you, I am just reporting cultural norms here – not taking sides – and my own personal opinions on this matter remain outside this blog..)
So this finally brings me to the concept of “Green Engineering.” This concept is being taught in our Engineering program, and presumably in campuses around the world. The US EPA has even thoughtfully provided us with a definition - which merits reading, and a textbook. Briefly, green engineering is the making of something (products and processes), within the normal constraints (forces of gravity, available dollars, influential business partners) AND - here is the change - minimizing overall environmental impact over the entire product/project life AND meeting the constraints of humanity and society. Defacto, this leads engineers back into being solution finders, vs problem solvers, with the overarching “constraint” - or goal - is that of the survival of the earth.
Brilliant. So now we have the proper vaccine, we have the identified population, and the rest of us can put some muscle into the political will and social push for “green engineering.” Unlike scientists, or politicians, or policy makers, or environmentalists - who could possible refute “green engineering?”