As the world finds ways to build cities that can have more people and better facilities, so too do civil engineers work in order to join the green movement and utilize fewer resources for habitation. While they may not be as well-known or productive as massive solar grids, they offer a means of reducing or even eliminating a carbon footprint or utilizing less power and water in order to get the same value from habitation.
The Three R’s of Site Design
Any time that a city needs to construct a new block, a row of homes, a hospital, or any other new project, they are sure to come across a huge amount of trash and debris in order to get the project done. The sites that build up massive civil engineering projects like airports and dams produce refuse in staggering quantities, ranging from the concrete that is no longer necessary to the runoff when precipitation hits the build site.
Recycling construction materials is no new process, but never before has it been possible to do so on site, until now. Civil engineers can use green concrete recyclers without having to expand the time and energy needed to transport large quantities of the bricks and rubble to a facility. These individual recycles are about the size of a dumpster and cannot go through more than about a ton of concrete per day, but ends up with a new lump of concrete instead of throwing out an old one to get a new one.
Driving On Green Roads
There is enough asphalt on American roads to reach to the moon and back three times. This much asphalt — as well as gravel, cement, and other materials — takes a huge toll on the environment. A new project by the Asphalt Research Consortium, however, is spending five million dollars in order to figure out how to make asphalt more green and sustainable.
One major area of research is “cold mixing” asphalt, using a process popular in under-developed nations to pour asphalt without needing to expend a huge amount of energy to heat it up first. Since all asphalt needs to come from refined oil, furthermore, heating it up creates the carbon byproduct that creates choking greenhouse gases. Why have US roads refrained from using cold mixing? In general, because they have not had to. As the cost becomes more expensive, however, the green factor applies to both energy and money.
Green Roof, Green Walls
There are parts of the world that are attempting to turn the clock back on technology to create green resources. As in, so far back that there is no technology. The 1050 K Street project by Timmons LEED is an example of projects that are literally green: this building is constructed with plant roofs and sidings in order to absorb moisture and UV light, cool down the interior, and develop a carbon-neutral structure. While this building can look a bit odd from far away — like a gardener had planted trees and shrubs into the side of the building — it offers a new chance to create projects that incorporate the environment directly.
Few phrases make the rounds in the green sphere more than sustainability. For some, this means being sustainable in your very house. New building projects are incorporating urban farming into their list of features. These small areas allow an individual to raise everything from a vegetable patch to a chicken coop in their own (or a communal) part of a building. This effort in sustainability not only ensures access to organic food, but does so at a much lower cost than most of the options you would purchase at the grocery store.
With millions of construction project occurring weekly across the United States, it is in the hands of civil engineers and construction crews to minimalize their carbon footprint. Those in the decision-making positions, such as individuals with an engineering management degree, should consider the new green technologies and trends available in their field. Building sustainable structures and cutting emissions in the process should be the goal of civil engineers worldwide.