Sustainability in engineering is and will continue to be at front of mind for design professionals and project owners when planning vertical and horizontal infrastructure. As the world’s population increases, engineers face ever-evolving challenges with regard to issues of sustainability and the health of the natural environment. Planning for sustainability in engineering has to begin at the onset of the project for clients to fully understand the initial costs up front and long-term benefits.
Sustainability In Engineering Trends
Sustainable engineering utilizes resources in a way that does not compromise the natural environment or deplete the materials for future generations to meet their needs. The construction industry, building associations, and environmental regulatory agencies have launched higher green performance standards. These standards are driving project owners toward compliance using green materials integrated with construction practices. Future green engineering trends are focused on healthier conditions for buildings and occupants.
A few sustainable engineering trends are:
- Sustainable Construction Materials - One of the largest recyclable products is steel, which is used for structural building materials. Advanced engineering concepts are expected to lower construction costs without loss to its durability and maintenance. The steel industry remains a leader of recycled structural steel with a recovery rate of 98%. Plastics, concrete, and stone have been added to the list of recyclable materials.
- Pre-Fabricated Construction as the Norm - In addition to labor shortages and the rise of material cost, companies are seeing the resounding impact and increase in pre-fabricated materials. Offices are leveraging demountable partitions to support daylight, ventilation, and flexibility while also reducing the amount of drywall and waste they contribute to landfills. Prefabrication allows the system to ship finished to site, reducing the volatile organic compounds (VOC) and air quality concerns of traditional drywall and finishing.
- Solar Energy - Energy is the largest uncontrollable operating cost in most buildings. Increased awareness has spurred the demand for developing advanced energy efficiency applications. Some states like New York, Texas, and California are seeking total renewable power production. The future is looking greener for the potential of using micro-grids and energy efficiency centers. Competition between the cost of traditional energy resources and solar systems is rising.
- Net-zero Energy Buildings - It takes a lot of energy to power buildings but now, they may be able to power themselves. A net-zero energy building is one that can produce about the same amount of energy that it consumes. These buildings are still connected to the grid when they are unable to produce enough energy during certain times, but they can provide the equivalent energy or even more than what they use.
- Energy Management Platforms of Automation - Technology, science, and engineering continue to develop software platforms for energy management. The programs provide 24/7 performance monitoring, data analysis, and imaging. Regular maintenance provides valuable information on fault detection and diagnostics for portfolio energy management. Communications are virtual and include text messaging with immediate alert notices. The value-added data will continue to lower costs, conserve energy, and fulfill market demands.
- Smart Offices - Technology is no longer a luxury in office design. It’s an employee expectation. As a result, employers are beginning to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) almost as quickly as society has in their homes. According to Building Design + Construction, the smart office incorporates lighting controls, optimized energy and HVAC levels adjusted by movement and space usage. Conference rooms are linked to room scheduling programs, dynamically booting up technology and adjusting the lighting for video calls so teams don’t have to. Holistic lifecycle costs have historically not been studied in the budgeting process, but going forward, it will be an important challenge when considering up-front costs.
Schemmer’s Bryce Johnson, PE, LEED AP, QCxP, Associate and Mechanical Engineer, thinks that some of the most exciting sustainability in engineering trends are the combined cycles. Generating electricity and using the waste heat in a productive way is one example. Another is the fuel cell that generates electricity with a byproduct of hydrogen as fuel. Imagine powering your hybrid electric/hydrogen fleet in this way!
Sustainability At Schemmer
Schemmer approaches the design of every project with sustainability at the forefront. We have built our sustainable foundation on solutions designed to best serve our clients. Every engineering discipline is engaged in sustainable design, employing many initiatives into their practice in order improve the quality of life for all. We continue to integrate sustainability in engineering, improved technology and best practices as we move forward together with clients sustainably.
Design with Purpose. Build with Confidence.
Schemmer is a full-service architecture, engineering, and construction field services consultant, providing responsible solutions for complex design and construction-related challenges.
Founded in 1959, we are grounded in our past but remain fully committed to the future. Located in four states and seven offices throughout the Midwest, Schemmer is providing services to clients from coast-to-coast and border-to-border across the United States.