The Purpose and Role of Sustainable Infrastructure Design

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“The installations that form the basis for any operation or system”. Infrastructure is regarded by many to be the crucial foundation of a society that determines the health and vigour of an economy and the direction of development in the times to come. It is the key to bring about a healthy, blissful and thriving economic climate in communities globally. Engineers however, are mainly concerned about the safety of the design, construction and operation of economic infrastructure. This includes railways, bridges, buildings, water and wastewater facilities as well as energy distribution and generation. As a result, sustainability is taken into account when designing.

Sustainable Infrastructure Design is a wonderful solution for the modern world as it has a less negative impact on the environment. For instance in the UK, buildings account for around 40% of the energy consumption, thus being the main contributor of carbon emissions. As such, engineers and researchers develop solar-powered technologies on buildings so that it can help in reducing carbon emissions, mainly carbon dioxide. Furthermore, health issues regarding cardio and respiratory are also significantly reduced.

A large degree of the climate change is affected by the manufacture and design of sustainable buildings. According to the UK Green Building Council, around 10% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions are associated with the construction phase and its entire building process. For instance, extraction, manufacturing, transportation, construction, maintenance and disposal. Designing buildings that use less energy should be made a priority. The use of less harmful materials benefits the environment as this cuts down carbon emissions in buildings. About half of all the carbon dioxides emissions in the industry are from cement manufacture, both in the manufacturing process and the by-product of the chemical reactions. Apart from that, materials such as low-carbon cements contains magnesia, which can absorb carbon dioxide during curing. Other than that, materials such as straw, compressed earth and timber have low carbon footprints and also has the ability to absorb carbon dioxide while growing.

Evidently, sustainable infrastructures would be of great help to avoid environmental shocks caused by natural hazards. According to the World Bank, in May 2019, a heavy rainfall caused serious flooding in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where bridges, roads and homes were destroyed and wiped away. The main reason behind such a disaster would fall onto the poor infrastructure systems, which are definitely inefficient. As such, sustainable architecture technology which reduce/counter environmental shocks such as flood caused by heavy rain in particular, by employing suitable materials for infrastructures and better usage of energy and ecosystem as a whole. This method should be introduced all around the world, especially in parts of the world which are less fortunate.

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To be able to develop a society where everyone can live happily in a healthy and conducive environment, there is a need to develop sustainable infrastructure design. One which meets the necessities for infrastructures while protecting the quality of the environment as well as the economic and social assets fundamental for future developments. Important aspects of it include the reduction of the life cycle cost and promoting economic growth. It is deemed to be economically and socially critical. Sustainable Infrastructures can also be a good investment. The prevention of pollution, reduced carbon emissions, payment for environmental services and reduced use of materials benefits investors’ both financially and economically.

What is actually needed to create a sustainable infrastructure design? A positive mindset would be a great start. In addition, engineers need to fully equip themselves with fundamental training, applicable practices, study infrastructure in depth to fully understand its concept and exposing themselves to real life applications. Another important aspect is for specialists and engineers around the world to collaborate and share their knowledge and experiences among themselves so that the information gathered is easily assessed and that will eventually result in an improvement in the standards of living of the society as a whole.

Nowadays, sustainable infrastructure design has become a major influence in industries of all types. Sustainable designs are being implemented into some buildings across the world. A few of which has a ventilation system to provide better indoor air quality. Aside from that, some buildings have shading so that they can significantly reduce the use of air conditioners. Limiting the use of energy is also important. According to a statistical data for a typical UK home, people tend to use water, electricity and other utilities more often during the day and at late night. As such, some homes have implemented energy saving technologies to help control their energy usage. Other sustainable infrastructures that have yet to be introduced to the public have to be developed which uses less resources in the construction phase and also better at being energy efficient especially in buildings. Implementing and developing sustainable infrastructure designs in our society will definitely result in a great positive impact on the environment.

Sustainable infrastructure design is not just about new infrastructure. It is about rehabilitation, reuse or optimisation of existing infrastructure, which is consistent with the principles of urban sustainability and global sustainable development. This includes long-term economic analysis of infrastructure, the energy usage and reduced infrastructure costs, taking good care of existing infrastructure from environmental degradation, material choices for sustainability, durability and energy saving, reducing waste and materials, the redesign of infrastructure to cope better in global climate change and the redress of environmentally damaged water and soils. Clearly sustainable infrastructure should lead to an improved socio-economics. Responsible design needs to balance environmental, social and economic issues.

As engineers, we should have the ability to make critical decisions, manage risks more efficiently and eventually work towards sustainable goals. It’s necessary that we as engineers implement a tactic that includes strategies and guidelines to ensure the growth of sustainable development. One which considers concepts of eco-efficiency and also systems related to control. The government should provide more incentives for the people to minimize the use of natural resources and also encourage investors to invest in sustainable infrastructure designs.

The purpose is to set a high standard of sustainable design in the short and the long term. We all have a significant impact on the world around us and each of us play a significant role in protecting the future generations. Engineers and researchers from all around the world have a responsibility to set high standards of design that benefit the environment and the people who live in it. 

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