Sustainability is no longer a buzzword, but a serious consideration across a broad spectrum of industries — including construction and civil engineering. Sustainable site planning and sustainable design of projects is a major concern for many civil engineers, with a good number of them leading the charge when it comes to breaking ties with the traditional.
Current challenges include the conservation of local wildlife or protected species of plants, making buildings or communities healthier, and rendering towns and cities viable for all citizens — not just those who drive cars. So, how exactly are our forward-thinking civil engineering teams embracing sustainable design as we move into the future? Let’s explore five trends in sustainable site planning that will only continue to grow.
1. Sustainable Site Selection
Sustainable site planning starts with a site selection process that’s kind to the environment, the local community, and everyone who is going to work on the site. Ensure that construction won’t encroach on protected areas. Check for large bodies of water and decide if it will be safe and sustainable to provide buffers for these, or if the potential environmental impact of dealing with these will be too high. Avoid building across green fields, which may be hot spots for biodiversity. Also, consider the transport links. While people are working on-site, how easy will it be for them to get there, and are there green options for transport available? Sustainably-minded civil engineers start by choosing a site that’s going to ensure their project has a low carbon footprint while providing the necessary benefits to the local community.
2. Alternate Mobility Community Planning
Streets are no longer just for cars. They’re for whole communities, and modern civil engineering teams are taking that into account when community planning or creating utilities for towns and cities. Planning concepts like Complete Streets encourage the thought process that pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, and people with a range of physical abilities all have the same right to enjoy their living space as those with cars.
This way of thinking has led to a focus on safety, including the introduction of safer, narrower roads with better crossing facilities. Accessibility is also increasing, with lower curbs often installed as standard, plus additions like tactile paving slabs to indicate crossing areas. Civil engineers are also including more footpaths to access green spaces such as parks and gardens. Encouraging people to leave the car at home is healthy not only on an individual level but for the local and wider community, too.
3. Focus on Green Spaces
Civil engineers might work with conservationists and landscapers from an early stage in projects, in order to either create or preserve green spaces around buildings and communities. Not only are green spaces attractive and great for the mental health of residents and workers, but they improve air quality and can even improve water quality by preventing the excessive runoff of chemicals into local water supplies. In some states, walking or cycling trails purposefully combine rural and city areas in an attempt to highlight and maximize the use of local green space.
4. Low-Waste Projects
One way that developers and design teams are leading the charge in sustainable design is by planning carefully to ensure the effective use of resources. This doesn’t just mean the construction materials, although that is a serious consideration. For example, ensuring wood comes from managed forests is a way to make sure the project has a lower carbon footprint. But other considerations include the use of water and power, how workers will travel to the construction site, and the logistics of transporting materials. Civil engineers may also consider construction methods and the vehicles or equipment the construction teams will use throughout. Mindful planning of the whole project can keep waste to a minimum and create less potential pollution.
5. Designing “Healthy” Buildings
Research in neuroscience shows that everyone is affected by the buildings they live and work in. Mass urbanization has led to a scarcity of variance in modern construction and design, which may lead to declining mental health when residents or employees don’t have rural areas to spend time in. Mental health is a serious concern that’s starting to be taken more seriously, even in the world of design professionals. It’s possible to start thinking about buildings that are not only ideally suited to their purpose, but to the people who live and work in them. Techniques to improve mental health may involve the right acoustic insulation in busy or noisy areas, plenty of natural light through the effective placement of windows and skylights, and variation in aesthetics both inside and outside buildings to keep minds stimulated.
As the world continues to change, sustainability in civil engineering will become even more evident and innovative. Design in construction and infrastructure is an industry with a huge environmental impact, so civil engineers who work toward making it more sustainable are potentially changing the world — for the better. Contact Engineering Surveys and Services for more information or a consultation.
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