Climate emergency

The climate emergency is the greatest threat to our planet. Structural engineers have a responsibility to help mitigate its effects by changing the way buildings and infrastructure are designed, commissioned and constructed.

UK engineering consultancies declared a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency in 2019, recognising the need to show leadership and drive real improvements.

The Institution supports these vital efforts through its role as an international centre of knowledge, sharing information and opinion with its membership and beyond.

Our Climate Emergency Task Group has grouped guidance, training and other useful resources under six key actions which should be priorities for all structural engineering professionals.

Browse our resources, gathered under each action, below.
 

1. Get informed

Understand how your decisions impact the climate.

Guidance
<h4>Building for a sustainable future: An engineer's guide</h4>

Building for a sustainable future: An engineer's guide

Pragmatic assistance for structural engineers in the delivery of sustainable projects for the building sector.

Date - 1 February 2014
Author - Various (Institution Task Group)
Price - £25.35/£39
Career Profiles
Jo da Silva, 2017 IStructE Gold Medallist

Jo da Silva FIStructE - Gold Medal Address 2017

Jo reflects on her own career and looks ahead to 2050, discussing the role structural engineers play in creating safe, sustainable, inclusive and resilient cities.

Date - 2 February 2018
Price - Free
Teaching
<h4>Podcast: Mike Cook FIStructE on Engineering Matters</h4>

Podcast: Mike Cook FIStructE on Engineering Matters

Engineering Matters speaks to 2020 Gold Medal winner, Mike Cook, about the climate emergency and his career.

Date - 26 June 2020
The Structural Engineer
Mike Cook

Foreword: Turning climate commitment into action

This foreword briefly summarises the commitments that engineers have made in declaring a climate emergency and considers first steps to build action plans that will support these commitments.

Date - 2 January 2020
Author - Mike Cook
Price - £9
Blog
A bridge over a dry river bed

Six climate emergency actions for structural engineers

Mike Cook FIStructE describes six actions structural engineers should take now to address climate change.

Date - 27 March 2020
Author - Mike Cook FIStructE
Blog
Mike Cook FIStructE

DECARBONATE - why we must change

Mike Cook FIStructE explains how and why structural engineering firms are addressing the climate emergency.

Date - 12 November 2019
Author - Mike Cook FIStructE
News
Blue abstract blocks

IStructE signs the NEPC submission to the 2020 Spending Review

CEO Martin Powell is one of 43 signatories to the engineering sector submission to the UK Government Spending Review.

Date - 30 September 2020
Author - IStructE
Blog
Blue abstract blocks

Don’t let climate grief stop you taking action

In this blog Mike Sefton considers how attitudes and responses to climate change have evolved over the last 25 years. He encourages us all to take collective responsibility for tackling the climate emergency.

Date - 29 September 2020
Author - Mike Sefton
Career Profiles
Blue abstract blocks

Mike Cook - Gold Medal address 2020

Mike gives a presentation about his career and commitment to the climate emergency.

Date - 25 September 2020
Author - Dr Mike Cook
Price - Free
Blog
Blue abstract blocks

Dr Mike Cook’s 2020 Gold Medal address

In an inspiring online lecture, Dr Mike Cook presented his compelling vision for the future. He argued that structural engineers have a vital role to play in reducing the impact of carbon in the built environment.

Date - 24 September 2020
Author - IStructE
News
Blue abstract blocks

Climate emergency guidance survey 2020

In late 2019, the Institution set up a Climate Emergency Task Group, with the goal of driving our response to the climate emergency.

Date - 13 July 2020
The Structural Engineer
An image showing temperature anomalies around the world

The structural engineer's responsibility in this climate emergency

Will Arnold describes the role structural engineers can play in tackling climate change, by making informed design decisions and influencing other members of the project team.

Date - 1 June 2020
Author - Will Arnold
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
6 climate emergency themes

A framework for change

Mike Cook and Will Arnold outline the Institution’s approach to providing guidance on the climate emergency, discussing six key areas this guidance will fall into.

Date - 1 June 2020
Author - Mike Cook and Will Arnold
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
Mike Cook FIStructE

Editorial: Climate emergency: adapting to change

Mike Cook, Chair of the IStructE Climate Emergency Task Group, introduces a new 'Climate emergency' section in The Structural Engineer .

Date - 1 June 2020
Author - Mike Cook
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
Blue abstract blocks

Profile: Mike Cook

Engineers must resist pressure to build environmentally unsustainable schemes if we want to be judged well by future generations, says 2020 Gold Medal winner and former Institution Vice-President, Mike Cook.

Date - 1 August 2020
Author - Jackie Whitelaw
Price - £0

More information:

2. Low carbon

Controlling carbon is as important as controlling cost and safety.

The Structural Engineer
<h4>Setting carbon targets: an introduction to the proposed SCORS rating scheme</h4>

Setting carbon targets: an introduction to the proposed SCORS rating scheme

Will Arnold, Mike Cook, Duncan Cox, Orlando Gibbons and John Orr present SCORS – a proposed carbon rating scheme for structures – and encourage engineers to adopt carbon targets for their projects.

Date - 16 October 2020
Author - Will Arnold, Mike Cook, Duncan Cox, Orlando Gibbons and John Orr
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Scaling low-carbon construction materials</h4>

Scaling low-carbon construction materials

Philip Isaac and Jonny Hawkshaw review the potential for materials with lower embodied carbon to be used more widely in both small-scale domestic projects and larger-scale residential and commercial projects.

Date - 2 September 2020
Author - Philip Isaac and Jonny Hawkshaw
Price - £0
Guidance
<h4>How to calculate embodied carbon</h4>

How to calculate embodied carbon

Date - 21 August 2020
Author - O P Gibbons, J J Orr
Price - Free
Guidance
Blue abstract blocks

How to specify lower carbon concrete

Jenny Burridge of the Concrete Centre discusses a more sustainable approach to concrete.

Date - 6 August 2020
Author - Jenny Burridge
The Structural Engineer
Pie chart showing carbon breakdown of project

We signed the climate declaration - now what? Lessons from counting carbon

Ben Gholam of Price & Myers shares his practice's experience of setting up a carbon-calculation tool and encourages other firms to take the plunge.

Date - 1 July 2020
Author - Ben Gholam
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>A brief guide to calculating embodied carbon</h4>

A brief guide to calculating embodied carbon

John Orr, Orlando Gibbons and Will Arnold preview a forthcoming new guide from the Institution on calculating embodied carbon.

Date - 1 July 2020
Author - John Orr, Orlando Gibbons and Will Arnold
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
Photo of Kate Simonen

Profile: Kate Simonen

Kate Simonen has been promoting the cause of embodied carbon reduction in structures for the past decade through the Carbon Leadership Forum.

Date - 1 June 2020
Author - Jackie Whitelaw
Price - £0
Case Study
A digital image of a structure

Embodied carbon: structural sensitivity study

A study shared by BuroHappold to share knowledge that may help address the climate emergency.

Date - 2 April 2020
Author - Jonathan Roynon, BuroHappold
Price - Free
The Structural Engineer
Manufacturing workshop

Held to carbon account: the end of 'bog standard' new build?

As the climate changes there will be ever-increasing social and economic pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, with focus turning to the embodied carbon in products which has thus far been eclipsed by operational values.

Date - 2 January 2020
Author - Muiris Moynihan
Price - £9

More information:

3. Lean design

Reduce material use safely through efficient, precise design.

The Structural Engineer
<h4>Rationalisation versus optimisation – getting the balance right in changing times</h4>

Rationalisation versus optimisation – getting the balance right in changing times

Ian Poole explores ways to improve the utilisation ratio of designs, and encourages engineers to challenge assumptions that favour rationalisation over optimisation.

Date - 16 October 2020
Author - Ian Poole
Price - £0
Training
Woodchip Barn's timber roof structure

Digital fabrication

How digital fabrication is transforming the way we construct the built environment.

Date - 24 January 2018
Price - Free
Training
Technical Lecture Series: Minimising energy in construction

Minimising energy in construction

A discussion of culture and practice in design relating to material efficiency.

Date - 7 December 2018
Author - Dr John Orr and Chris Wise
Price - Free
Training
An image from Steve McKechnie's presentation

Nurturing digital talent - the computational future of the profession

Steve McKechnie explores building a culture of sharing and innovation where people are proud to talk about the work they do.

Date - 16 July 2019
Author - Steve McKechnie
Price - Free
Case Study
A digital image of a structure

Embodied carbon: structural sensitivity study

A study shared by BuroHappold to share knowledge that may help address the climate emergency.

Date - 2 April 2020
Author - Jonathan Roynon, BuroHappold
Price - Free
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Shell structures: lessons in structural efficiency for sustainable construction</h4>

Shell structures: lessons in structural efficiency for sustainable construction

Isuru Nanayakkara looks at traditional technologies and modern approaches to lightweight shell construction to seek a better perspective on how shell technology can be appropriated to different local contexts.

Date - 1 April 2020
Author - Kavinda Isuru Nanayakkara
Price - £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>What do we mean by efficiency? A holistic approach to reducing embodied carbon</h4>

What do we mean by efficiency? A holistic approach to reducing embodied carbon

Ben Gholam describes the development by Price & Myers of a parametric benchmarking tool to allow engineers to produce scheme designs with the lowest embodied carbon.

Date - 16 October 2020
Author - Ben Gholam
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
Comparison of overdesign and lean, resilient design

Lean yet resilient - designing for the future

Caroline Field explores the relationship between ‘lean’ and ‘resilient’ design, and discusses how future designs should evaluate risks and incorporate strategies to mitigate and adapt to these.

Date - 1 August 2020
Author - Caroline Field
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
Diagram of building layers

Lean design: 10 things to do now

Natasha Watson explains how structural engineers can produce designs that make efficient use of material to reduce their environmental impact.

Date - 1 August 2020
Author - Natasha Watson
Price - £0

More information:


4. Zero waste

Design structures that are easily reused and recycled.

Guidance
<h4>Appraisal of existing structures (Third edition)</h4>

Appraisal of existing structures (Third edition)

Comprehensive, step-by-step guidance for structural engineers needing to check and report on the adequacy of an existing structure.

Date - 1 October 2010
Author - Various (Institution Task Group)
Price - £38.35/£59
Blog
Dried flax stems

Three ways structural engineers can help create a zero-waste future

Guglielmo Carra, Arup's Materials Consulting Lead, Europe, is a civil engineer and materials scientist. Here he outlines how the construction industry needs to change how it thinks about waste, and how structural engineers can contribute.

Date - 21 January 2019
Author - Guglielmo Carra
Training
Woodchip Barn's timber roof structure

Digital fabrication

How digital fabrication is transforming the way we construct the built environment.

Date - 24 January 2018
Price - Free
The Structural Engineer
Structural art installation

Redefining structural art: strategies, necessities and opportunities

It is simply not possible to build in the future the way we do today if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, slow the depletion of natural resources and minimise waste production. These challenges can only be addressed if engineers and architects actively include them at the source of their designs.

Date - 2 January 2020
Author - Philippe Block, Tom Van Mele, Matthias Rippmann, Francesco Ranaudo, Cristian Calvo Barentin and Noelle Paulson
Price - £9
The Structural Engineer
Circular economy

Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is reused: structural design for a circular economy

Structural designers’ efforts to reduce environmental impacts traditionally consist of developing systems that minimise material quantities or use low-impact materials. A third strategy is currently (re)emerging: the reuse of structural components over multiple service lives and in new layouts.

Date - 2 January 2020
Author - Corentin Fivet and Jan Brutting
Price - £9
The Structural Engineer
Manufacturing buildings

Manufacturing buildings for people and planet

This paper explores issues around the ambitions for use of off-site methods, identifies some lessons from previous projects, and suggests ways to accelerate the adoption of manufacturing-led methods, including professional services delivery, education and skills.

Date - 2 January 2020
Author - Adrian Campbell, Matt Cooper and Andrew Waugh
Price - £9
The Structural Engineer
Manufacturing workshop

Held to carbon account: the end of 'bog standard' new build?

As the climate changes there will be ever-increasing social and economic pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, with focus turning to the embodied carbon in products which has thus far been eclipsed by operational values.

Date - 2 January 2020
Author - Muiris Moynihan
Price - £9
Blog
Unfinished office building interior

Practical application of circular economy principles

Eva MacNamara argues engineers need to maximise the value of material and minimise embodied energy to address the climate emergency.

Date - 30 May 2020
Author - Eva MacNamara MIStructE
Library
<h4>Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit of Existing Buildings</h4>

Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit of Existing Buildings

Describes deficiency-based and systematic procedures that use performance-based principles to evaluate and retrofit existing buildings to withstand the effects of earthquakes.

Date - 20 November 2017
Author - American Society of Civil Engineers
Price - Free to members
The Structural Engineer
Flowchart for circular economy prinicples

Applying circular principles to the design process

Eva MacNamara explains how structural engineers can incorporate circular economy thinking at each stage of a building's design.

Date - 1 August 2020
Author - Eva MacNamara
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Refocusing modern methods of construction on the climate emergency: a five capitals model for action</h4>

Refocusing modern methods of construction on the climate emergency: a five capitals model for action

Adrian Campbell, Robert Hairstans and Giulia Jones explain how natural, human, social, manufactured and economic capital can all benefit from a sustainability-focused approach to off-site manufacturing.

Date - 2 September 2020
Author - Adrian Campbell, Robert Hairstans and Giulia Jones
Price - £0
Guidance
<h4>Temporary demountable structures: Guidance on procurement, design and use (Fourth edition)</h4>

Temporary demountable structures: Guidance on procurement, design and use (Fourth edition)

Essential information for Event Organisers, Venue Owners, Local Authorities, Contractors, Suppliers and 'Competent persons', on the procurement, design and use of temporary demountable structures, including: grandstands; stages; fabric structures, hospitality units and fencing/barriers.

Date - 1 May 2017
Author - Various (Institution Task Group - AGOTS)
Price - £25.35/£39

More information:

5. Influence the brief

Convince your client and collaborators to pursue designs that are low-carbon and minimal intervention.

The Structural Engineer
<h4>Rationalisation versus optimisation – getting the balance right in changing times</h4>

Rationalisation versus optimisation – getting the balance right in changing times

Ian Poole explores ways to improve the utilisation ratio of designs, and encourages engineers to challenge assumptions that favour rationalisation over optimisation.

Date - 16 October 2020
Author - Ian Poole
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Setting carbon targets: an introduction to the proposed SCORS rating scheme</h4>

Setting carbon targets: an introduction to the proposed SCORS rating scheme

Will Arnold, Mike Cook, Duncan Cox, Orlando Gibbons and John Orr present SCORS – a proposed carbon rating scheme for structures – and encourage engineers to adopt carbon targets for their projects.

Date - 16 October 2020
Author - Will Arnold, Mike Cook, Duncan Cox, Orlando Gibbons and John Orr
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>What do we mean by efficiency? A holistic approach to reducing embodied carbon</h4>

What do we mean by efficiency? A holistic approach to reducing embodied carbon

Ben Gholam describes the development by Price & Myers of a parametric benchmarking tool to allow engineers to produce scheme designs with the lowest embodied carbon.

Date - 16 October 2020
Author - Ben Gholam
Price - £0
News
Blue abstract blocks

IStructE signs the NEPC submission to the 2020 Spending Review

CEO Martin Powell is one of 43 signatories to the engineering sector submission to the UK Government Spending Review.

Date - 30 September 2020
Author - IStructE
Blog
Blue abstract blocks

Don’t let climate grief stop you taking action

In this blog Mike Sefton considers how attitudes and responses to climate change have evolved over the last 25 years. He encourages us all to take collective responsibility for tackling the climate emergency.

Date - 29 September 2020
Author - Mike Sefton
Career Profiles
Blue abstract blocks

Mike Cook - Gold Medal address 2020

Mike gives a presentation about his career and commitment to the climate emergency.

Date - 25 September 2020
Author - Dr Mike Cook
Price - Free
Blog
Blue abstract blocks

Dr Mike Cook’s 2020 Gold Medal address

In an inspiring online lecture, Dr Mike Cook presented his compelling vision for the future. He argued that structural engineers have a vital role to play in reducing the impact of carbon in the built environment.

Date - 24 September 2020
Author - IStructE
The Structural Engineer
Dozen people sat at desks classroom style

Viewpoint: A curriculum for the climate emergency: what questions should we be asking?

Oliver Broadbent and James Norman call for a rethink of engineering education to meet the needs of an industry adapting to the demands of the climate emergency.

Date - 2 September 2020
Author - Oliver Broadbent and James Norman
Price - £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>The climate change crisis demands radical change by all. How must structural engineers respond</h4>

The climate change crisis demands radical change by all. How must structural engineers respond

In his winning entry to the Institution’s Kenneth Severn Award 2020 – an annual essay competition for young engineers – Will Rogers-Tizard argues that structural engineers can help tackle the climate emergency by making better use of materials, understanding carbon values and questioning industry norms.

Date - 2 September 2020
Author - Will Rogers-Tizard
Price - £9

More information:

Arup: Realising the value of the circular economy in real estate


6. Get involved

Exchange information through the Institution and lobby for change.

We are seeking contributions from across structural engineering, including thought leadership, useful technical information, or case studies that exemplify best practice.

Regional Groups offer you learning and netowrking opportunities near you.

IStructE's Linkedin Group is a great way to make professional connections with other members.