Sustainable by Design ; GREEN ENGINEERING ++ from Seawater Greenhouses to Eco-Friendly New- Builds, Engineers Can Create a Greener World, Says Kate Hilpern
Hilpern, Kate, The Independent (London, England)
For the past few years, Charlie Paton has been busy designing and creating an award-winning system that uses seawater to provide an economic and sustainable means of cultivating high quality crops, year round, in hot, arid coastal regions. Like many engineering efforts to develop sustainable products for the future, it has enormous potential.
"In many parts of the world, over-pumping of ground water has led to lowering of the water table and salinisation, making traditional agriculture no long viable," he says. "The Seawater Greenhouse works by humidifying and de-humidifying the ventilation air using solar energy and seawater to provide fresh water and cooling. The greenhouses use very little electrical power and are made with low- cost materials, which are 100 per cent recyclable. The system therefore enables high value crops to be grown year round in some of the hottest countries of the world." Sustainability is the latest buzzword in engineering circles, and it is very firmly on the agenda to stay, says Brian Robinson at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. "It's a massively growing area. The challenges of climate change are huge for everyone," he says.
Those who have images of engineers as boffins working away on designs and solutions in isolation should think again, he says. "A lot of the challenges around carbon, energy and water efficiency are not simply about the creation of new products. They're about getting the message across to key influencers, decision makers and purchasers about how important sustainability is."
Simon Pringle, director at the environmental consultancy WSP Environmental, adds that engineers working on sustainability can therefore expect to work in multi-disciplinary teams, "which makes for much more interesting work." He explains: "sustainability is a hybridised area of activity, rather than being about pure engineering, so today's engineers can find themselves working with professionals such as acousticians, policy makers, experts in vibration and light, architects and planners. In fact, this kind of diversity is key to delivering a good project."
Engineers who work at WSP Environmental, which employs 900 people across 60 offices, says projects for their engineers range from working with major corporate and government clients interested in "greening" their buildings, right through to helping to build sustainable cities in countries such as China. "Here, they have to ensure that waste is recycled as resources and that water usage is cascaded from one building to another very smoothly and that the whole city is carbon efficient - just to name a few examples."
The surge of interest in environmental issues in the engineering world is particularly strong when it comes to buildings. Little wonder when you consider that a staggering 40 per cent of the UK's carbon emissions come from buildings alone - with a similar picture in many other countries. But it's not just altruistic visions of saving the planet that is driving the attempts to do something about it, says EMCOR Energy's managing director, Keith Pedder. "The cost of energy has seen a 100 per cent increase over the last three years. Then there are all the regulations that have recently come in, and there is also a growing element of what's known as corporate social responsibility, whereby companies are trying to be seen to be green because it's good for their reputation."
In some locations, such as London, there are additional green targets, he adds. "Ken Livingstone has put in place a 10 per cent renewable strategy, which means that you now have to produce buildings that have a 10 per cent renewable energy component. And while it's London specific, a lot of other local governments are picking up on what they deem to be workable targets. Next year, this figure will rise to 20 per cent, so it's an aggressive rise, leaving engineers …
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Publication information: Article title: Sustainable by Design ; GREEN ENGINEERING ++ from Seawater Greenhouses to Eco-Friendly New- Builds, Engineers Can Create a Greener World, Says Kate Hilpern. Contributors: Hilpern, Kate - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 2, 2006. Page number: 2. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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