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
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
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
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
Training
an image of the engineers declare presentation

Structural Engineers Declare: what this means for structural engineers

Chris Wise discusses individual responsibility and how engineers can attempt to affect climate change.

Date - 8 November 2019
Author - Chris Wise
Price - Free
Training
an image of the UN goals

A targeted approach to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

An introduction to the goals and how structural engineers can use them to tackle the climate crisis and create a better world.

Date - 23 September 2019
Author - Will Arnold
Price - Free
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

More information:

2. Low carbon

Controlling carbon is as important as controlling cost and safety.

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
Blog
A steel and concrete structure

Steel, concrete and climate change

Muiris Moynihan MIStructE explains why use is so widespread, the materials' climate change impact, and why their responsible use is the realm of structural engineers.

Date - 11 December 2019
Author - Muiris Moynihan MIStructE

More information:

3. Lean design

Reduce material use safely through efficient, precise design.

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
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Viewpoint: Computational design: embedding sustainability</h4>

Viewpoint: Computational design: embedding sustainability

The Institution’s Digital Workflows and Computational Design Panel calls for a rethink of what computational design offers the industry for more sustainable design.

Date - 2 October 2019
Author - Ashley Kacha
Price - £9
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

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
<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
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
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

More information:

5. Influence the brief

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

The Structural Engineer
Crossed out excavator demolishing building

Nothing is better than something

Tim Ibell, James Norman and Oliver Broadbent challenge structural engineers to steer their clients away from a presumption of a new building.

Date - 1 June 2020
Author - Tim Ibell, James Norman and Oliver Broadbent
Price - £0
The Structural Engineer
Graph showing evolution to build nothing

How can we create an engineering industry while building nothing?

James Norman, Tim Ibell and Oliver Broadbent examine the challenges engineers will face in persuading clients to repurpose existing buildings in place of building new ones.

Date - 1 July 2020
Author - James Norman, Tim Ibell and Oliver Broadbent
Price - £0
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
Training
<h4>Minimal intervention: less is more</h4>

Minimal intervention: less is more

Hear from the engineer behind the Structural Award-winning Newquay Harper Footbridge project - and get into the mindset of only doing what is necessary.

Date - 27 April 2020
Author - Tony Parasram
Price - Free
Library
<h4>Design of blast-resistant buildings in petrochemical facilities</h4>

Design of blast-resistant buildings in petrochemical facilities

This report provides general guidelines for the structural design of blast-resistant petrochemical facilities, updating the 1997 original edition.

Date - 1 October 2010
Author - L. Bounds, William
Price - Free to Members

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.