India's most famous civil engineer, Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, once said: ‘Work is worship.'
Gustave Eiffel, the French civil engineer responsible for the Eiffel Tower, said: “Can one think that because we are engineers, beauty does not preoccupy us or that we do not try to build beautiful, as well as solid and long lasting structures? Aren’t the genuine functions of strength always in keeping with unwritten conditions of harmony? Besides, there is an attraction, a special charm in the colossal to which ordinary theories of art do not apply.”
Marvels of civil engineering are evident throughout history. Even today, humans are trying to push the boundaries of what is possible.
However, what exactly draws prospective engineers to the civil engineering profession? Why do civil engineers do what they do? How can they improve the world in the future?
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association, a construction organization in the United Kingdom, wants to answer those questions. They have published a report entitled: ‘The social benefits of infrastructure investment.'
The association brings together 300 civil engineering member companies across Scotland, Wales, and England. Altogether, they represent 70 to 80 percent of all civil engineering activity in the UK. They are present in critical sectors including transport, energy, communications, waste, and water. With the uncertainty of Brexit looming, the association is reminding civil engineers to remain dedicated to the noble profession.
Building a better world?
The association says that building infrastructure leads to social cohesion. However, more needs to be done to establish a purpose for the workers building the infrastructure that generates the ecosystem of a city. In the report, they write:
“The social and economic benefits of infrastructure are closely related. While quality of life, health and social inclusion have become increasingly important factors in long term economic prosperity, the mechanisms by which infrastructure influences these factors are considered much less measurable than simple economic benefit.”
The report encourages civil engineers to find the gaps in society where they could assist in developing hubs of business and prosperity. They say this is attainable by starting within their communities. They write:
“Solving Britain's housing crisis is not simply a question of building a certain number of new homes, but ensuring that there are opportunities for people to have access to the housing they need where they want to live.”
Investment into infrastructure in communities who might need it most develops, the report says, ‘more productive and interesting work that enables people to develop their skills and knowledge.' Thus, civil engineering can help others find their way in their careers too.
Arup, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists with offices in the UK, is also redefining the fashion in which they instill social value in their projects.
Arup associate director for sustainability and social value, Alison Ball, talking to the New Civil Engineer publication said:
“Many things come together to form the social value of the project, such as health and wellbeing, crime and safety, identity, pride and belonging, community cohesion and diversity, geography, and stakeholders. We also think that added into this we need to take a total value approaching asking: ‘what are the natural and environmental benefits?’, and the negatives, the financial values, as well as the economic values?”
In 2018, the public opinion of the social value of civil engineering projects was unfavorable due to highly publicized structural failures in the United States and Italy. It produced fresh cynicism for civil engineering projects that lack constant maintenance.
The year 2019 will test already existing infrastructure and its maintenance. Building new structures while not maintaining the old infrastructure will undercut the social value design that firms and new civil engineering companies are trying to contribute to.
Consequently, prospective engineers entering the industry must ensure that wherever they find themselves in the industry, they do a good job and pay attention to detail.
16 January, 2019 By Connor Ibbetson. “Debate | Determining the Social Value of Projects.” New Civil Engineer, www.newcivilengineer.com/business-culture/debate-how-can-engineers-determine-the-social-value-of-projects-/10038890.article.
“Home.” CECA, www.ceca.co.uk/.