Friday, September 09, 2016

Raising Structural Engineering’s Sustainability Game

Though constantly enthralled with my day job building with large beams – digitally at least – one thing always in the forefront of my mind is how structural engineering relates to one of the biggest drivers in the modern AEC industry: sustainable design. The steel and concrete which normally makes up a building’s superstructure do not lend themselves naturally to sexy sustainability measures. They’re energy intensive components to manufacture and transport and thereafter become inert and forgotten – ideally for the life of the building. Recently the 2016 Canadian Green Building Awards were announced highlighting some of structural engineering’s contribution to sustainable architecture. Basically what our firm does – or at least what I can contribute – is thoughtful material optimization. This is done by being as geometrically rigorous as possible delivering an efficient structure. Then we have beam design and selection etc. which is done by the engineers. This is mostly governed by local building codes but does have material and cost implications that better engineers will shift to the owners’ advantage. The projects in the article don’t stray too far from engineering’s traditional approach to sustainable structural design. Most of the efficiencies gleaned from their sustainability programme appear to come from high performance enclosures as opposed to novel recycled structural components or planting 20 trees for every steel beam. (Though I do like the sound of a solar-powered concrete pour.) Blackwell Structural Engineering had not previously been on my radar and it was nice to see Fast + Epp’s work acknowledged again but I wonder how they would fare against engineering juggernaut Arup.

No comments: