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.

You can also contact the Task Group if you have questions about their work.

Contact the Climate Emergency Task Group

1. Get informed

Understand how your decisions impact the climate.

 
Report
<h4>Climate Emergency Task Group: End of year report 2020</h4>

Climate Emergency Task Group: End of year report 2020

The Climate Emergency Task Group help the profession to tackle climate breakdown. Their 2020 report reviews the group’s activities through the year.

Date ‐ 17 December 2020
Price ‐ 0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>The structural engineer's responsibility in this climate emergency</h4>

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
<h4>Addressing the biodiversity emergency: what role can structural engineers play?</h4>

Addressing the biodiversity emergency: what role can structural engineers play?

Natasha Watson and Mike Sefton introduce biodiversity concepts and explain how structural engineers can influence design and construction decisions at each stage of a project to ensure that biodiversity is protected.

Date ‐ 2 August 2021
Author ‐ Natasha Watson and Mike Sefton
Price ‐ £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Climate jargon buster</h4>

Climate jargon buster

Grace Di Benedetto presents a short glossary of key sustainability terms that engineers are likely to encounter when reading climate guidance.

Date ‐ 1 June 2021
Author ‐ Grace Di Benedetto
Price ‐ £0
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
<h4>A short guide to carbon offsetting</h4>

A short guide to carbon offsetting

Offsetting greenhouse gas emissions will be required in the short term while the construction industry develops zero-carbon materials. Will Arnold summarises the key considerations for engineers looking to offset a project’s emissions.

Date ‐ 5 July 2021
Author ‐ Will Arnold
Price ‐ £0
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2. Low carbon

Controlling carbon is as important as controlling cost and safety.

 
Guidance
<h4>How to calculate embodied carbon</h4>

How to calculate embodied carbon

An essential set of embodied carbon calculation principles for structural engineers looking to change the way they practice, in order to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.

Date ‐ 21 August 2020
Author ‐ O P Gibbons, J J Orr
Price ‐ Free
Guidance
A laptop screen showing charts and data

The Structural Carbon Tool

Use this tool to help you quickly estimate the embodied carbon in your structures.

Date ‐ 18 March 2021
Author ‐ Elliott Wood
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>Timber and carbon sequestration</h4>

Timber and carbon sequestration

Will Hawkins discusses carbon sequestration and end-of-life processes in timber structures, and the implications for sustainable decision-making in structural design.

Date ‐ 4 January 2021
Author ‐ Will Hawkins
Price ‐ £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Developing a low-carbon, circular economy for steel</h4>

Developing a low-carbon, circular economy for steel

Walter Swann explains how structural engineers can support a transition to a low-carbon steel industry through their design and specifying decisions.

Date ‐ 31 March 2021
Author ‐ Walter Swann
Price ‐ £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>How can we reduce the embodied carbon of structural concrete?</h4>

How can we reduce the embodied carbon of structural concrete?

Paul Astle explores potential ways in which engineers can seek reductions in the embodied carbon of structural concrete.

Date ‐ 1 February 2021
Author ‐ Paul Astle
Price ‐ £0
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3. Lean design

Reduce material use safely through efficient, precise design.

 
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Lean design: 10 things to do now</h4>

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
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>Structural safety when designing lean in the climate emergency</h4>

Structural safety when designing lean in the climate emergency

The IStructE Safety, Health and Wellbeing Panel considers the safety implications when aspiring to a lean design.

Date ‐ 4 January 2021
Author ‐ IStructE Safety, Health and Wellbeing Panel
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
<h4>Design solutions for efficient timber buildings</h4>

Design solutions for efficient timber buildings

This article offers some solutions to help structural engineers design efficient timber buildings.

Date ‐ 2 August 2021
Author ‐ James Walker
Price ‐ £9
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
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4. Zero waste

Design structures that are easily reused and recycled.

 
The Structural Engineer
<h4>An introduction to refurbishment. Part 1: Identifying opportunities at the feasibility stage</h4>

An introduction to refurbishment. Part 1: Identifying opportunities at the feasibility stage

Stephen Fernandez discusses ways in which engineers can explore the potential to refurbish existing buildings instead of demolishing and building anew.

Date ‐ 16 November 2020
Author ‐ Stephen Fernandez
Price ‐ £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Enabling steel's circular economy potential</h4>

Enabling steel's circular economy potential

Michal Drewniok discusses the principles of reusing steel elements and encourages structural engineers to consider this option over designing with new material.

Date ‐ 1 March 2021
Author ‐ Michal Drewniok
Price ‐ £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>What can you do if you are convinced a structure will work but can’t prove it to code?</h4>

What can you do if you are convinced a structure will work but can’t prove it to code?

The article explores ways to justify reuse of existing structures through a thorough understanding of the original building structure, and engineer’s intent.

Date ‐ 1 June 2021
Author ‐ Jessica Foster
Price ‐ £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Analysing existing structures: a brief introduction</h4>

Analysing existing structures: a brief introduction

This article discusses the analysis and modification of existing structures for new uses, allowing return on investment to be maximised and reducing the need for present-day carbon emissions from new construction.

Date ‐ 1 June 2021
Author ‐ Mathai Mathew
Price ‐ £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Strengthening of existing buildings: an introduction</h4>

Strengthening of existing buildings: an introduction

This article discusses how strengthening an existing building can enable changes of use, achieve compliance with modern building codes, resist a previously unforeseen environmental load or increase resilience. It gives a broad description of some common strengthening options, as well as guidance on where to find more information.

Date ‐ 2 September 2021
Author ‐ Lizzie Blaisdell Collins and Joe White
Price ‐ £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Vertical extensions: technical challenges and carbon impact</h4>

Vertical extensions: technical challenges and carbon impact

Jenny Pattison discusses the typical considerations that structural engineers face when seeking to add floors to an existing building, and the sustainability outcomes of potential solutions.

Date ‐ 4 May 2021
Author ‐ Jenny Pattison
Price ‐ £0
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5. Influence the brief

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

 
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Low-carbon outcomes in the built environment</h4>

Low-carbon outcomes in the built environment

Tim Chapman and Ian Firth highlight the carbon differences between civil structures and buildings projects, and propose that engineers work with their clients to target low-carbon outcomes, rather than just low-carbon structures.

Date ‐ 4 May 2021
Author ‐ Tim Chapman and Ian Firth
Price ‐ £0
Training
<h4>The art of persuasion and collaboration</h4>

The art of persuasion and collaboration

How can structural engineers influence decision making?

Date ‐ 6 November 2020
Author ‐ Will Arnold, Roma Agrawal, Martin Knight and Elena Redriguez-Falcon
Price ‐ Free
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Interview: John French</h4>

Interview: John French

Can very low-carbon buildings be constructed cheaply enough to suit the pockets of private-sector commercial developers? Yes, says Professor John French, who has set himself that target in his new role as director of sustainability  for Cambridge Innovation Parks. But to do so involves overhauling approaches to procurement, contracting, materials and risk.

Date ‐ 1 February 2021
Author ‐ Jackie Whitelaw
Price ‐ £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Persuasion and influence in a climate emergency</h4>

Persuasion and influence in a climate emergency

William Algaard presents ways in which structural engineers can help shape the direction of a project by confidently and constructively sharing their expertise in a language that client and architect will understand.

Date ‐ 2 September 2020
Author ‐ William Algaard
Price ‐ £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Viewpoint: Racing to zero: isn't it time you committed to emission reduction targets</h4>

Viewpoint: Racing to zero: isn't it time you committed to emission reduction targets

Buro Happold and WSP UK have committed to reducing the carbon emissions of their designs by 50% by 2030. In this article, Sarah Prichard and David Leversha set out the rationale for this target, explain how they plan to achieve this, and encourage other firms to join them in setting an ambitious agenda for governments to follow as we approach the COP26 climate summit.

Date ‐ 5 July 2021
Author ‐ Sarah Prichard and David Leversha
Price ‐ £0
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Measuring carbon – a small practice perspective</h4>

Measuring carbon – a small practice perspective

Peter Laidler describes a small practice's solution to calculating the embodied carbon of its standard structural designs.

Date ‐ 2 September 2021
Author ‐ Peter Laidler
Price ‐ £9
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6. Get involved

Exchange information through the Institution and lobby for change.

 
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Structural engineering innovation for a zero-carbon world: an R&D agenda to match the carbon budget</h4>

Structural engineering innovation for a zero-carbon world: an R&D agenda to match the carbon budget

Pete Winslow, Mike Sefton and Will Arnold set out a vision for a net-zero structural engineering sector and the R&D that we as a profession need to tackle to get there.

Date ‐ 31 March 2021
Author ‐ Pete Winslow, Mike Sefton and Will Arnold
Price ‐ £0
<h4>Regional Groups</h4>

Regional Groups

Discover Institution activity near you, including site visits, technical lectures, networking events and awards.

The Structural Engineer
<h4>Own your agency: what part will you play in the climate revolution?</h4>

Own your agency: what part will you play in the climate revolution?

Architect Sam Turner and structural engineer James Norman encourage professional activism to tackle the climate emergency.

Date ‐ 1 March 2021
Author ‐ Sam Turner and James Norman
Price ‐ £0
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
Blog
<h4>Young engineers and the climate emergency</h4>

Young engineers and the climate emergency

In this piece, Pooja Shah shares her thoughts on how young engineers can respond to the climate emergency. Pooja is an Engineer at RDG Engineering and Chair of the IStructE Young Member’s Group.

Date ‐ 22 December 2020
<h4>Sustainability Open Spaces</h4>

Sustainability Open Spaces

Tackle the climate crisis by discussing issues and ideas with like-minded members

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7. Project case studies

Get inspired by these project focus articles from The Structural Engineer.

 
The Structural Engineer
<h4>RICA – climate-positive design using locally sourced materials</h4>

RICA – climate-positive design using locally sourced materials

This article describes the climate-positive design for the campus of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture. 

Date ‐ 5 July 2021
Author ‐ James Kitchin, Rosie Goldrick and Kelly Alvarez Doran
Price ‐ £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Design and construction of Hams Way Footbridge, Worcester</h4>

Design and construction of Hams Way Footbridge, Worcester

This article describes the design of Hams Way Footbridge from concept through to construction, including an assessment of the embodied carbon.

Date ‐ 1 June 2021
Author ‐ Finn Graham and Ben Curry
Price ‐ £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Nature's invention: The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia</h4>

Nature's invention: The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia

The article showcases the University of East Anglia's Enterprise Centre project, a low-carbon, sustainable building which achieves both Passivhaus standard and BREEAM Outstanding rating.

Date ‐ 4 May 2021
Author ‐ Malachy McNamara
Price ‐ £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>1 Triton Square, London – low-carbon development through reuse of an existing building</h4>

1 Triton Square, London – low-carbon development through reuse of an existing building

This article describes the structural reuse and strengthening strategies adopted to enable three additional storeys to be added to an existing office building in London.

Date ‐ 1 March 2021
Author ‐ Andrew Robertson and Eric Sturel
Price ‐ £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>The Living Planet Centre – a sustainable home for WWF-UK</h4>

The Living Planet Centre – a sustainable home for WWF-UK

The design of the BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ Centre was developed from the outset to control its environmental and social impact, achieving the highest standards of sustainable construction.

Date ‐ 2 November 2015
Author ‐ J. Gerrard (Expedition Engineering)
Price ‐ £9
The Structural Engineer
<h4>Reuse, build less, build lean: low-carbon design for 22 Bishopsgate, London</h4>

Reuse, build less, build lean: low-carbon design for 22 Bishopsgate, London

22 Bishopsgate was erected on the site of an abandoned project, reusing 100% of the existing foundations from three previous buildings, and incorporating more than 50% of the basement built for its predecessor. This article describes the approach to reusing the existing foundations and basement, as well as the focus on material efficiency in designing the superstructure and transfer structures.

Date ‐ 2 September 2021
Author ‐ Diego Padilla Philipps
Price ‐ £9
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