2. Application of sustainability of engineering
i. Product and process innovation
3. Practical implications and solutions
Engineering is using scientific knowledge and mathematical methods for analyzing, designing and operating structures, machines and systems. Engineering is used to satisfy the problems humans face in daily life. Doing so most of the times the environment or the usual human life style is affected directly or indirectly.
Sustainability means fulfilling our needs and living within the limits that are provided for us by the nature. That means when achieving our needs, the ability of the future generations to meet their needs should also be considered. Because of that now the attention of all the fields has been drawn towards sustainable development. When talking about development almost everything now depends on products and services based on engineering. Because of that sustainability in engineering should be based on the principles of sustainable development.
“Growing populations and affluence around the globe have put the increasing pressure on the air and water, arable land and raw materials. Concern over the ability of natural resources and environmental systems to support the needs and wants of global populations now and in the future, is part of an emerging awareness of concept of sustainability.”
-Sustainable engineering: An introduction to sustainability
The concept of sustainability in engineering can be classified between the aspects environmental, social and economic. Because of that in sustainable engineering all these three aspects should be taken into consideration.
1) Application of Sustainability Principles
When applying sustainability principles that should be done in the foundation stage of any product, project or a structure. Once they are done it is hard to redesign, redo or turn back something. Because of that the principles of sustainability should be considered in policy making regarding funding of technological researches and in decision making in both industrial and research projects also.
Here priority should be making the outcome of the procedure a balanced one. In doing so as mentioned in the introduction the balancing falls among environment, social and economic balancing. If one of these three aspects is neglected during the procedure and only other two are given attention then that project would be a waste. Then there won’t be any difference between sustainable engineering and engineering before that.
Traditional engineering Sustainable Engineering
Considers the object or process Considers the whole system in which the object or process will be used
Focusses on technical issues Considers both technical and non-technical issues equally
Solves the immediate problem Strives to solve the problem for infinite future
Considers the local context Considers the global context
Assumes others will deal with political, societal and ethical issues Acknowledges the need to interact the experts in other disciplines related to the problem
1.1 Product and Process Innovation
In this field, engineering products and processes in forms of innovations and other forms are considered. In order to design them in the most appropriate way products and processes should be applicable to environmental, social and economic sustainability and it is important to consider the life cycle of a product. The three life cycle steps of a product are production, utilization and disposal.
For an outcome which agrees with sustainability aspects that means for a ‘green’ product, there are certain requirements the product should have. But often these requirements are contradictions. For an example, in the procedure of some product it is needed to be biodegradable for the environmental aspect and in the utilization stage the product needs to have a good quality too. But to do that expensive material would be needed and that affects the economic part directly.
Because of that in the first stage of producing a product attention should be given thoroughly in the first stage of a product. First in the phase of development ideas for a sustainable product are considered then the necessary illustrations are given in order to improve the sustainability of the product. After this procedure a final product which doesn’t impact all the aspects of sustainability can be obtained.
1.1.1 The Development Phase of a Product
During the phase of designing of a product or a process there are two steps to pass. The first one is diverging while the other one is converging.
In the first step many methods of producing the product are discussed without concerning the inabilities to do so or the restrictions. In the second step the suggestions are tested and evaluated. It’s clear to see that in the first step sustainability of the outcome is not considered because it gives way to many alternative methods without restrictions. Because of that in the second step converging sustainability of the product is taken to consideration. In this step emphasis lies between product, process, marketing and sustainability.
Usually in designing diverging and converging may not be considered. But in sustainable development they are taken to consideration.
1.1.2 Sustainability Consideration
In the designing phase it is taken to consideration how to design the product under the concept of sustainability. But another important fact should also be considered which is the disposal of the product. In this way the impact on the environment at the end of the use of the product can be minimized. All together all the aspects of sustainability can be given attention in different stages of producing the project.
Entrepreneurship is setting mind in doing new innovations and other things in a better way and making good business opportunities even with some risks. Paying attention to the environmental and social needs and addressing them, business owners can make new business opportunities to make profit.
To be a successful in doing that the businesses should pay attention to the problems around them and come up with new ideas for innovations and designing new products and processes in a sustainable manner. Also, a business should address the environmental and social concerns in a way that they do not affect all the three aspects of sustainability.
Businesses may pay attention to sustainable entrepreneurship focusing on various aspects;
• To enhance their company name and reputation
• To benefit financially by being market leaders and making the range of their influence wider and reducing the environmental and social impacts
• To affect positive social change
In sustainable development entrepreneurship constantly look for new ways to protect the environment and find solutions for societal needs by providing new goods, services or methods which does not affect the economy too while making financial benefits for the entrepreneur.
In this stage the priority is given how to do designing with minimum impact on the environment and society without much sophistication. As well as refining the products from impacting the economy with materials, energy and labor, it can also be designed in a way that it would fit the environment using sustainability principles that it won’t disrupt the ecosystem. In this manner sustainability can be applied in the designing field.
2) Practical Implications and Solutions
The principles of sustainability can be applied in engineering in the above-mentioned ways. But usually all those applications aren’t used in practically. Many problems have raised due to the development of technology. But now solutions for those problems are given through technology itself. Using the principles of sustainability is one of those solutions. In order to minimize the impact on environment and society during these products and processes sustainability of engineering is being used in environment, society and economic.
For an example the following situation can be considered. The problem and the solutions that were found in a way that they won’t affect the sustainability principles.
Here the problem was a flood prevention. The usual solution for this kind of a problem creating a trapezoidal channel would have been a perfect answer and it would have solved the problem. But it would have cost greatly and it would have brought some issues on the environment and the society. For examples it would have destroyed natural vegetation and wildlife and caused soil erosion and many other negative impacts.
But the alternative solution for this problem was to convert the negative impacts into benefits. To do that some additional investment and a wider range of collaboration among civil engineers, ecologists and landscape architects were required. The result was a permanent, landscaped relief channel with various environment features like a natural river. At last it became an asset to the nature and the society instead of disturbing or destroying them.
Green engineering tries to find the problems that should be taken care of and then gives an environmentally, socially and economically suitable solution. Green technology has four main goals.
1. Waste reduction
2. Materials management
3. Pollution prevention
4. Product enhancement
In green engineering various methods of solutions can be found through new processes, designs and products. But they should be sustainable in all the aspects. They should consider short-term and long-term impacts too.
These sustainable designs or products should consider about the place and time too. That means for an example, using nuclear power to generate electricity is a sustainable decision. The radioactive waste may have a half life of thousand years. Like that the sustainable solutions may have a highly uncertain future.
Usually an environmental engineer working in sustainability,
? Apply expert knowledge in sustainability methods in a way that they would be applicable to real life cycle assessments and other things
? Work in a team in order to make environment policies in a company or a government authority
? Find solutions in a sustainable manner for problems such as climate change, water availability, waste management etc.
In green engineering, water engineers play a major role. Water engineers helps giving sustainable solutions working on the following fields.
? Try to preserve water by managing and designing water dams to ensure that there is water to be used in dry times and make sure that water is distributed among everyone equally
? Predict flooding and ensure the development in floodplains by collecting data on rainfall and flow
? Try to find flow of the underground eater and quantify them
? Study the behavior of the ocean in coastal areas and try to prevent things like coastal erosion by giving solutions according to the principles of sustainability
? The concept of sustainability in engineering is a new concept comparing the ways that were used before it was introduced
? The sustainability in engineering is based on sustainability in environmental, social and economic aspects
? Sustainability can be used in engineering products, processes, entrepreneurship and designing
? In the present, the concept of sustainability in engineering is used all over the world in many fields such as environment, transportation, water engineering etc.
• Sustainable development in engineering: a review of principles and definition of a conceptual framework by Bruno Gagnon, Roland Leduc and Luc Savard