Sustainability and Resilience

In 2006, NSPE formally recognized the importance of sustainability by adding a new professional obligation to the Society’s Code of Ethics. The new provision stated, “Engineers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of sustainable development in order to protect the environment for future generations.”

Since 1987, when the World Commission on Environment and Development used the term “sustainability” in its now familiar environmental context, professional engineers have taken the lead on developing sustainable solutions. They have contributed to the development of projects covering solar energy, wind energy, water conservation, and materials reuse, among many others.

More recently, professional engineers have been faced with the staggeringly difficult challenges brought on by climate change. As the weather becomes more severe, PEs are at the forefront of designing infrastructure that can adapt to keep the public safe and secure. Planning for the unknown is no easy assignment, but professional engineers are acting now to reduce risks and plan for quick recovery when disaster strikes.

NSPE Position

Professional Policy 05, Environment: “preserving and improving the environment is critical to the sustainability of the planet and is an integral part of the practice of engineering….”

Unified Energy Policy NSPE Position Statement No. 04-1776: “NSPE supports a balanced approach to domestic energy development and delivery that safely, reliably, and efficiently minimizes the Nation’s reliance on foreign sources. The strategic objective of this approach is to provide reliable and cost-effective energy while protecting the public health, safety, and welfare, taking into account the full life cycle costs and environmental impacts of all energy sources….”

More on these issues

PE articles

(High) Winds of Change: Extreme weather events tied to climate change are increasing. Some are asking whether the standard of care is changing as well. (May/June 2019)

Green Infrastructure Gains Followers as Waters Rise (November/December 2018)

‘Overwhelmed’: One year after Hurricane Harvey produced historic rainfalls, PEs and public officials in Texas are ensuring that it isn’t business as usual when protecting the public from future flood risks. (September/October 2018)

Imagining the Impossible: Professional engineers can offer more to disaster planning and recovery than design solutions. These PEs are putting their technical expertise to use on a bigger-picture view. (November/December 2017)

From Recovery to Resilience: After natural disasters strike, professional engineers make it their mission to not only rebuild communities, but also make them more resilient. (November/December 2017)

Designing Resilience (June 2014)

What Sandy Taught: Following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, engineers sprang into action to help recovery and rebuilding efforts. What lessons did they learn? (November 2013)

Change in the Weather: As changes in climate become more severe, engineers are making an effort to prepare for the future. (March 2013)

For the Client: The Push for Sustainability (April 2011)

Engineering a Greener Mindset (October 2010)

Panel Urges New Approaches To Critical Infrastructure (June 2009)

Dangers of the Green Rush (January/February 2008)

Obligation Earth (PDF): A new provision in the NSPE Code of Ethics says engineers have a duty to use sustainable design to protect the environment for future generations. (April 2006)


Join the Discussion

Members can join the discussion about these issues in the “Engineering and Climate Change” forum in NSPE’s online Communities.