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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Staff awareness is the dominant factor in pursuing sustainable development

Nick Wordsworth

Staff awareness is the dominant factor in pursuing sustainable development

The project is derived from the researcher's previous experience of working in the
civil engineering industry, exclusively as a consultant. As a younger member of staff
undertaking training to achieve a professional qualification, the researcher was
involved in the organisation and acquisition of professional knowledge for himself
and others within three different consultancies. Participation in this Masters degree
course presented an opportunity to examine in more detail what the current state of
knowledge and attitudes- here termed awareness- towards sustainable development
is within the population of civil engineering consultancy.

The research was based on three questions, which have been expanded on in a semistructured
way, asked during interviews with the staff of two dissimilar companies
within the available population. These questions aim to examine the attitudes and
knowledge of sustainable development as a conceptual entity, their views on the
appropriateness and methods of implementation within an individual's personal and
professional life, and how the industry and government could or should be
responding. As a separate exercise, an overlapping sample of those involved in civil
engineering, both from subject companies and others, completed an online
questionnaire that addressed the same questions in a more structured and formal way.
The results of the interviews have been analysed qualitatively, which has included the
researcher's perceptions of the subjects' responses rather than simply quantifying the
verbal responses to each question. The survey has been conducted online, advertised
on the ICE website and at their conference, in addition to emailed direct to the
researcher's contacts within the participating companies and other groups. Analysis
on this is still underway, as the survey is not yet completed, but simple reviews have
been possible using the available portion of the data.

Initial Findings
Although the results of both research activities are still undergoing analysis, initial
findings are as follows. The term sustainable development is well known within the
industry, yet definitions are varied and the Brundtland one is not generally well
known. The majority became aware of sustainable development in the 1990s and
environment dominates this awareness. 28% of respondents have read the ICE policy
document, yet 40% of respondents believe they are following best practice more than
50% of the time. These findings are likely to change as the sample population for the
survey grows.
Preliminary Conclusions
The population is overwhelmingly in favour of sustainable development yet are
having problems implementing it. What constitutes sustainable best practice is not
clearly understood. There is a reliance on shifting responsibility for sustainable
development to specialist staff, in preference to adapting behaviour.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.