Civil Engineering has spurred and played a Key role in the industrial revolution. However, in the process it has created critical classes of problems including depletion of non-renewable energy resources, human exposure to toxic in soil, water and food. It has also led to ecosystem and global climate damage, the rising demand for land for food production, housing and economic activities such as retail, production and transportation (Vanegas 2004).

These negative aspects of engineering calls for a reshape in the processes involved. Sustainable design processes one of the critical phases in an engineering process towards sustainable development (Williams 2007). Civil engineering as a profession strives to create processes and products that are better for humans and nature during production (Eide et al. 2002).

It is critical to understand the regional and global effects of the industry society and engineering projects on ecosystems. Ecologists and Civil engineers should work cooperatively to ensure that the collective stresses placed on global or regional ecosystems by engineering activities do not exceed their beneficial capacities. This essay discusses the design processes in Civil engineering and the relevance of sustainability issues in design.

Design is open-ended and Creative

A civil engineering design process is a series of formulated steps used to guide engineers as they solve problems. One of the key design attribute of a competent civil engineer is the ability to cope up with various factors that creates a design brief (Narayanan 2003). Sustainable products and processes are often a result of open ended and innovative ideas. Creativity in engineering is driven with the underlying goal of creating a better world. The success of a civil engineering design process greatly relies on the interaction with colleagues and clients. This interaction incorporates various views and creative ideas which would have not been realized. Cooperation leads to the development of a better design brief which encompasses economic and social objectives.

The Design Processes in Civil engineering

The design process in civil engineering is a set of steps that the design engineer takes from the onset of a need or problem identification, to the creation of a sustainable solution that meets the need or solves the problem. The key steps of the engineering process are: defining the problem; carry a background research; specify requirements; create alternative solutions; choose the best solution; do development work; build a prototype, and test and redesign where necessary (Haik 2003). During the design process, designers regularly move back and forth between the steps. It is normal to go back to earlier steps in the design process. This back and forth movement is termed as iteration (Eggert 2010).

Importance of Design in solving Sustainable Issues

Before highlighting the role of design in creating facilitating sustainable programs and development, it is important to define sustainable development in the context of civil engineering. Sustainable engineering is the process of creating products and processes that meets the current needs without compromising the capacity of the next generation to meet their own needs (ASCE 2004). Civil engineers strive to enable people to realize their potential to improve their quality of life through ways and products that simultaneously enhance and protect the globe’s support system. Civil engineers design road construction technologies that minimize material and energy consumption. The building materials are also scrutinized to minimize pollution during production, application and at disposal (Alexander & et al 2007).

Sustainable technologies are designed to enhance cost effectiveness, improve process efficiency, minimize ecological and human risks, and ultimately create processes and products that are environmentally benign or environmentally beneficial. Sustainability also dictates that the involved processes are more with less energy, as well as, less raw materials. Civil engineers should also invest heavily in Research & Design towards sustainable innovative technologies (Birkeland 2002). Such technologies would create processes and products that are better for nature and humans during usage and at disposal. Sustainable design creates the built environment, physical objects that comply with economic, social and ecological sustainability (Vallero & Brasier 2008). Designers are interested in achieving sustainable cities and sustainable development using various design techniques and principles to design cities, buildings, roads and the Earth’s physical surface. Sustainable engineering processes are mostly a response to depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, damage to the ecosystem, rapid growth of human population and economic activities, and global environmental crises (Vanegas 2004). Some of the techniques used include scientific modeling, Computer Aided Design & manufacturing. Sustainable urban infrastructure design promotes energy-efficient buildings and landscaping.

At the center of sustainable engineering design, lies the goal of establishing products for the mutual benefit of nature and humans (Williams 2007). Natural systems and human engineering must interact in harmony to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem. This will require vertical and horizontal linkages through all disciplines of natural sciences, social science and engineering.


To summarize, the current world needs a more holistic view of the design processes in any aspect of engineering. Civil engineers needs to be rational and enlightened about the social, economic and environmental dimensions of their products and processes, as well as, more innovative in meeting their objectives. Collectively this outlines the nature of sustainable development, which is the core of civil engineering. Sustainable engineering is consistent with adopting systems and approaches to solve real world problems. The solutions should also be capable  being addressed with  wide- scale civil engineering rigor. Therefore, the planning and design phases in any civil engineering project should consider the inclusion of innovative knowledge domains, systems skills, attitudes and the appropriate habitat of mind to enable the future generation engineers to contribute to a sustainable society.





References List

Alexander, C 2007, A pattern language : Towns, Buildings, Construction, Oxford Univ. Press, New York.

ASCE 2004, Sustainable engineering practice, ASCE Publications, New York.

Birkeland, J 2002, Design for sustainability: A sourcebook of integrated ecological solutions, Earthscan, London.

Eggert, RJ 2010, Engineering Design, Second Edition, 2nd edn, High Peak Press, Meridian, Idaho.

Eide, A, Jenison, R, Mashaw, L & Northup, L 2002, Engineering: Fundamentals and Problem Solving, McGraw-Hill Companies Inc, New York City.

Haik, Y 2003, Engineering design process, Thomson/Brooks/Cole, South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Narayanan, R 2003, Introduction to Design for Civil Engineers, Spon, London.

Vallero, DA & Brasier, C 2008, Sustainable Design : The science of Sustainability and Green engineering, John Wiley, Hoboken, N.J.

Vanegas, J 2004, Sustainable Engineering Practice – An introduction , ASCE publishing., New York.

Williams, DE 2007, Sustainable Design: Ecology, Architecture and Planning., John Wiley & Sons, New York.



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