2. Principles of Sustainable Engineering
3. Application of the Principles of Sustainability
4. Practical Implications and Solutions of Sustainable Engineering
The idea of sustainability, characterized particularly for the field of engineering is the idea of coordinating social, ecological, and monetary contemplations into item, process, and vitality framework and plan techniques in engineering. The engineering procedure, which takes after the idea of sustainability, is characterized as sustainable engineering. Sustainable engineering energizes the thought of the total product and process lifecycle amid the exertion of designing. The goal is to limit natural effects over the whole lifecycle while at the same time boosting the advantages to social and monetary partners.
Today engineers are urged and anticipated that they would add to the procedure of sustainable improvement and its difficulties through the inventive and smart utilization of engineering ideas. Today, the use of the idea of sustainability has moved toward becoming not a modification to the engineering process but rather a piece of the procedure. Subsequently, ideas of sustainability must be connected with the ideas of engineering synergitistically.
Hence, unavoidably, the methodologies conventional engineering and sustainable engineering have noteworthy contrasts.
Traditional Engineering Sustainable Engineering
1. Focuses on technical aspects
2. Considers the local context
3. Considers the object or process
4. Solves the problem for the immediate future 1. Takes technical and non-technical aspects into consideration synergistically
2. Considers global context
3. Considers the context in which object or process will be used
4. Tries to solve the problem for the long lasting time
According to Wikipedia, with the persistent look for sustainability, today, the engineering specialists have perceived four principle aspects that are basic to be tended to through sustainable engineering ideas.
1. Waste reduction
2. Materials management
3. Pollution prevention
4. Product enhancement
Standards of sustainable engineering can be recognized as the crude material, with which we can accomplish the previously mentioned viewpoints as a definitive result of the procedure of sustainable engineering. As depicted by the University of PennState of United States, the principles of sustainable engineering appear in the accompanying graph.
This outline unmistakably shows that the idea of sustainability, when connected to engineering, prompts a procedure towards social, natural, and economical sustainability.
The principles of sustainability and strategies based on those principles are commonly used in various stages in the engineering field. Also, practical implications of these principles are common to be seen in the modern world. These aspects of sustainability will be discussed in the following chapters.
Sustainability principles are applied in almost all the stages of an engineering process. However, here, only three standout stages out of the rest are taken into consideration.
1. Product designing
2. Product innovation
Product designing, when collaborated with sustainability principles, can be referred to as sustainable designing. As suggested by its name, this is the process of designing a product or a process that is compatible with the environment, the society and the monetary aspect.
Sustainable design strategies usually depend on the impact level of the considered designing. Three main levels of sustainable designing are optimizing an already used system or product, changing an already used system or product, partially, to achieve sustainability goals, and entirely designing a novel system or a product. The impact level an engineer hopes to reach depends on various factors. The efficiency of the already existing system, the funds available for the project, provided time limit, capacity of the engineers engaged, and available resources are a few to be named. However, today, engineers tend to choose entirely designing a new system after realizing the shortages of existing systems and seeing the benefit of re-designing.
Each engineering discipline is occupied with sustainable designing, utilizing various approaches in light of standards of sustainability. Here are a couple of them.
1. Life cycle analysis (LCA)
A design system to evaluate natural effects related with every one of the phases of an item’s life from crude material extraction through materials handling, make, utilization, repair and support, and disposing.
2. Pollution prevention
In contrast to most pollution managing strategies, which center around managing the impact of the pollutants that are already released, the pollution prevention method designs products or processes to avoid or reduce the amount or the rate that pollutants are released.
3. Design for the environment (DfE)
A design strategy that seeks to reduce the impact of a product on human health and the environment. This method takes the assistance of several software to try and find out the optimum path for production.
4. Design for disassembly (DfD)
This design strategy focuses on providing a convenient access to the product and its parts when it comes to renovation or disassembling.
5. Design for recycling (DfR)
In this approach, the focus is on designing products that are recyclable, so that, at the end of their lifecycle, the product-waste would not be a burden to the environment.
Apart from the aforementioned main strategies, following designing strategies also helps to produce a sustainable product.
1. Pick non-toxic, reused materials that need a small amount of energy to process.
2. Try to minimize the carbon footprint of the product or the process.
3. Imitate the models, or systems of the environment to find solutions.
4. Consume minimal resources.
Product and System Innovation
The next step in the process of engineering after the designing stage is innovating the product or the system. As was emphasized previously, each stage of the engineering process is dependent on the rest of the stages. Similarly, innovating process is heavily reliant on the designing process. Hence, depending on the context, most of the strategies used in designing are used in the innovating process and are important to the process.
The process of innovation seeks to minimize the cost of the bulk product, minimize the amount of resources used or reuse or recycle the resources, minimize the energy consumption during the innovating process, and minimize the amount of waste produced.
At the end of both designing and innovating processes, we get a sustainable product or a system ready to be released to the society.
Production of a sustainable product is the key element of a sustainable future. However, if this product cannot be of use to the masses, or not appealing to the masses, the further existence of the product will not be certified. This is why entrepreneurship is important to any engineering process, let alone a sustainable engineering process.
With the recent popularity of sustainable products among the masses, there is a high demand for such products in the world. This has been a huge boost to the entrepreneurs to increase the sales of the products. Therefore, there is a tendency among entrepreneurs to commit to the development of sustainable products. Companies of large scale have entered to the market of sustainable engineering. Electric vehicle manufacturing company, Tesla, is one such prominent example.
In fact, entrepreneurs prefer sustainable products to traditional products since they are more economically beneficial and highly appreciated by the masses. However, the initial cost of designing and producing a sustainable product after series of research is still relatively high. This is the main obstacle to the rapid progress of the application of sustainability principles in engineering.
Nevertheless, we can expect to see a significant development in applying sustainability principles to product designing, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the recent future due to the very reason that sustainability is a necessity to be granted the well-being of our future generations.
Despite being relatively new concept to the world, sustainability has gathered momentum in quite a short time to present us with ample innovations using the sustainability principles. Considering the engineering discipline, specifically, the same could be said. The impact of the sustainability concept has been spread from construction, vehicles to various other fields in relation to engineering.
Hybrid vehicles are one of the widely-embraced engineering products that followed the concept of sustainability. The primary intention of producing hybrid vehicles is reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, which is one of the significant objectives of sustainable product development, and reduces the environmental pollution caused by burning fossil fuel. These vehicles use a combination of two power sources, electricity and fossil fuels. It has an extra electric combustion generator that powers an electric motor in addition to the traditional motor engine.
Following hybrid vehicles came the all-electric vehicles, known as plug-in electric vehicles. These vehicles generally occupy a rechargeable battery to power the vehicle. Nissan, Mitsubishi, Tesla and Renault are the four dominant all-electric vehicle producers in today’s market. The total amount of miles driven by Nissan all-electrical vehicle owners has saved 120 million CO2 emissions in a year when compared to driving the same distance in fossil-fuel-powered cars.
Sustainable buildings, also called “Green buildings”, are another practical implication of sustainability concepts in relation to engineering discipline. According to Wikipedia, common characteristics of a green building are;
1. Use water, energy, and other resources efficiently,
2. Create a space suitable to improve employee productivity.
3. Reduce waste generation and environmental pollution.
The Crystal, a green building located in London is a fine example of a sustainable building. Its majority of the electricity demand is provided the electricity generated by photovoltaic solar panels. Its waste is treated, recycled, and reused within the building. Shanghai Tower, China and World Trade Center, Bahrain two other fine examples of green buildings.
Renewable energy generation is another field, which is important for the goal of a sustainable future and, at the same time, uses the sustainability concepts in practice. Mainly considered renewable energy sources are water, sunlight, and wind. From building hydropower stations that produce 70% of world’s renewable energy to building sophisticated solar panels and finding methods to increase the efficiency of wind-power generation, engineers practically apply these concepts to find efficient methods to generate sustainable energy. Photovoltaic method generates direct current electricity by sunlight using semiconductors with the photovoltaic effect. Iwanpah Solar Power Plant (392MW) and Mojave Solar project (280MW) are two mega-scale solar power plants and Three Gorges dam (22500MW) is a mega-scale hydropower plant.
Few products have been released to the market that has increased energy efficiency. LED bulbs are a one such prospect. They are a lot more efficient than fluorescent lamps. Some LED lamps emit 300 lumens per watt.
Waste management is another field that implements the principles of sustainability in practical. Specially, waste water management. There are various wastewater treatment advances. A wastewater treatment prepare can comprise of an essential clarifier framework to evacuate strong and gliding materials, an auxiliary treatment framework comprising of an air circulation bowl took after by flocculation and sedimentation or an initiated muck framework and an optional clarifier, a tertiary natural nitrogen expulsion framework, and a last purification process. The air circulation bowl/actuated slime framework expels natural material by developing microorganisms. The optional clarifier expels the enacted slop from the water. The tertiary framework, despite the fact that not generally included because of expenses, is ending up more common to expel nitrogen and phosphorus and to sterilize the water before releasing to a surface water stream or sea outfall.
New aspect of engineering discipline is restoring destroyed forests, lakes, and wetlands to restore the pre-existed balance between nature and humans. Engineers play a significant role in this regard from conducting feasibility tests to designing structures. China is replanting 90 million acres of forest. Some countries in the world build small forest areas in urban places, called “green sponges” to retain and purify water.
It is quite evident that humans are over-exploiting the nature to fulfil their needs and wants. As its effects become apparent as the years pass by, people understood the need of a sustainable development that not only plans for today, but for an infinite future. Hence, the concept of sustainability was built. Application of these sustainability principles in one of the major disciplines on the planet, engineering, has become a necessity since then. So engineers defined principles of sustainability to suit the discipline and applied them in real world innovations. As an engineer, the awareness about sustainability and its applications in this discipline is an essential aspect to become a successful engineer. Therefore, the knowledge about applying sustainability principles in different stages of engineering and its practical implications and solutions will be crucial in raising a future engineer.
Sustainability principles-PennState University
Guide to sustainable design-using SolidWorks Sustainability; Rudy Ruggles, Asheen Phansey, Benjamin Linder