Structural engineering industry commits to change
Date published

12 November 2019

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Structural engineering industry commits to change

Date published
Date published

12 November 2019

Signatories to the Structural Engineers Declare climate emergency initiative convened at IStructE headquarters in Bastwick Street, London on 17 October to discuss the next steps the profession must take to address the emergency.

During the meeting delegates agreed key actions around areas including carbon measurement and performance-based design, while the Institution outlined its plans to support the industry. IStructE also agreed to consider a number of proposals raised by delegates at the meeting.


Actions for industry:

Carbon: measurement and monitoring

We will:

  • Track carbon on all new building projects from the start – ready to share
  • Report carbon at every project stage to client and team
  • Build carbon and biodiversity tracking into scope of service and into specifications
  • Agree with others reliable figures for assessing embodied carbon in materials
  • Agree standard means of measurement and logging data
  • Provide data to a common sharing database for the industry (RICS or further development)
  • Work with QS and client to build carbon footprint evaluation into net present value assessment
  • Advocate adding embodied carbon requirement figures into Building Regs Part A for shell & core
  • Report annually on progress towards carbon reduction targets
  • Consider setting agreed methods of carbon tracking, recording and sharing or work with another body to ensure structural engineering principles are embedded
  • Seek procurement routes that assure carbon and biodiversity targets can be met

Code and design at the heart of change

We will:

  • Design to code but without over-capacity (“enough …. and no more”)
  • Develop performance-based design approaches into project designs

Our responsibility as enablers and influencers

We will:

  • Influence every client: question need and brief; prioritise renovation; track and value carbon
  • Start to raise awareness so that engineers can talk about the issues to clients and in public
  • Support a presumption against demolition – to be justified and requiring Section 106 Agreement
  • Work to agree standardised additional scopes and contracts

Within our companies

We will:

  • Invest in training now to prepare engineers to enable transition
  • Develop practice-wide action plans to support commitment to the Climate Emergency Declaration and share these plans
  • Establish an employee panel to give feedback, make suggestions for improvement

Legislation to stimulate change

We will support:

  • Introduction of laws leading towards an overarching reduction in carbon levels
  • The introduction of a CO2 tax
  • The removal VAT from renovation projects


IStructE activity:

IStructE is:

  • Establishing a co-ordinating Climate Emergency Task Group
  • Mobilising the Joint Board of Moderators to press for climate emergency understanding to be part of Civil/Structural Engineering degree courses
  • Developing technical guidance and CPD courses relating to climate responsible structural engineering
  • Working with other Institutions to advocate and advise on climate emergency response in policy and legislation
  • Reducing its own carbon footprint
  • Reviewing membership exams and awards to ensure responsible engineering is as vital as safe engineering

The delegates asked IStructE to consider additional actions including:

  • Creating a “State of our Structures” report
  • Hosting carbon reporting tools on behalf of the profession
  • Developing a Hippocratic oath equivalent for structural engineers
  • Requiring members to produce individual climate emergency action plans


Structural engineering statement on climate change

“As structural engineers we acknowledge that we are part of the problem; continued construction to support economic growth has impacted on the degradation of the planet’s eco-system. 

“Now our planet faces a severe emergency that threatens its ability to sustain the diversity of life on which we depend. Engineers must and will play a significant part in driving change to reverse the degradation and support the process of restoration.

“The built environment now contributes over 40% of the CO2 emissions in the UK and we are committed to playing our part in reducing this down to zero by 2050 or sooner.

“As structural engineers we have agreed to take immediate and urgent action to change practices within our own discipline and acknowledge our significant responsibility to support change across the built environment sector as a whole.

“We have agreed to make radical change to the way we work; advocate urgent change in others and will be prepared to work with government in driving changes to legislation for the construction industry, in order to underpin the radical outcomes necessary in achieving the required speed of reduction.

“In making these changes, we remain committed to safe structural design and the essential duty of care we owe to all who use the buildings and infrastructure we help create.”

More about Structural Engineers Declare.

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