Consulting Engineers and the Environment

The endangered environment

There is a growing awareness that the earth cannot continue supporting increases in population and consumption. Mankind is threatening its own existence, in addition to that of many other forms of life, through global pollution and excessive consumption of limited resources.

Engineers have contributed to the quality of life though the provision of better water supplies and sanitation, and by the development of natural resources, food, energy, and communication and transportation systems. These advancements have contributed to rapid population growth and environmental problems.

Consulting engineers and the environment

Consulting Engineers accept the challenge of the endangered environment. Because of their professional training and background they have a particular role and obligation towards the protection of the environment. Engineers should provide leadership in achieving sustainable development — development that will meet the long term needs of future generations of all nations without causing major modification to the earth’s ecosystems.

This role of the engineer should result in:

- Careful evaluation of the environmental benefits and adverse impacts of proposed projects.
- Conservation of energy.
- Reduction in the use of non-renewable resources and increased re-use of materials.
- Reduced waste production through improved industrial processes, better transportation and distribution systems, and recycling of waste products.
- Sound agricultural and other land-management practices.
- Restoration or improvement of damaged land, polluted water supplies, and disturbed ecosystems.
- Effective transfer of environment knowledge and experience.

Ethics and responsibilities

Worldwide steps are required to protect and improve our environment. The effort must involve government, the public and the private sector.

Consulting Engineers are trained and experienced in handling complex problems. They should combine their traditional skills with broader applications in physics, chemistry, biology, and other disciplines to lead interdisciplinary teams directed at achieving acceptable environmental solutions.

Observing a code of conduct is a fundamental part of the profession of a Consulting Engineer. The goals of Consulting Engineers should include a commitment to achieve sustainable development. Consulting Engineers should give the highest priority to the short term and long term welfare, health and safety of the community. They should consider regional, global and cumulative effects of projects in addition to local effects.

Therefore, FIDIC recommends as follows:

General recommendations

Each Consulting Engineer should:

1.  Keep informed on global environmental trends and issues.
2.  Discuss environmental problems with professionals from other disciplines.
3.  Provide information to clients, the public, and government about environmental problems and how adverse effects can be minimised.
4.  Become involved in organisational activities, including assistance to governmental authorities, that promote the protection of the environment.
5.  Encourage and promote appropriate courses in all forms of environmental education.
6.  Promote research and development relevant to protecting and improving the environment.

Special recommendations

Each Consulting Engineer should:

1.  Recommend that environmental studies be performed as part of all relevant projects. Such studies will normally require a multi-disciplinary approach.
2.  Evaluate the positive and negative environmental impacts of each project. This evaluation might be based on a preliminary review of available information or on the engineer’s experience. They should evaluate the basic functions and purposes behind a project. They should suggest alternatives to their clients if environmental risks emerge.
3.  Develop improved approaches to environmental studies. Environmental effects should be considered early in the planning process. Studies should evaluate the long term consequences of environmental changes.
4.  Make Clients aware that engineers can reduce but not always eliminate adverse environmental impacts. The legal and financial responsibilities of all parties should be clearly defined.
5.  Urge clients to prevent or minimise the adverse environmental effects of projects in all phases - initial planning, design, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning.
6.  Finally, take appropriate action or even decline to be associated with a project, if the client is unwilling to support adequate efforts to evaluate the environmental issues or to mitigate environmental problems.