Humanitarian engineering: as good as it gets

Emma Kent, editor of a new ICE journal special issue on humanitarian engineering, says it is something all civil engineers should aspire to.

Humanitarian engineering includes providing temporary accommodation for refugees.
Humanitarian engineering includes providing temporary accommodation for refugees.

As a profession, civil engineers should be immensely proud of the work we do to improve the lives of others, through our day-to-day endeavours and also through development work and disaster relief. And the need is ever-present.

Last year 903 million people were affected by natural and man-made disasters (Em-dat, 2015), there were 836 million people living in extreme poverty (UN, 2015) and civil strife forced a record 60 million to flee their homes (UNHCR, 2015).

Highest calling

It could be said that humanitarian engineering – which directly promotes human welfare – is the highest calling for our profession. It is the very essence of, 'directing the great sources of power in Nature for the use and convenience of man'.

But what does it involve, and how can civil engineers get involved? To help answer these questions the Institution of Civil Engineers has just published a special issue of its Civil Engineering journal on the subject.

Lessons learnt

It aims to share and celebrate some of the tremendous projects that civil engineers are carrying out in the humanitarian field and to open discussions about best practice and lessons learnt for the future. Topics range from competence and safety in humanitarian engineering projects to case studies on refugee camps, disaster response, road building, footbridges, housing and environmental clean-up.

The papers were selected from over 50 abstracts and 21 submitted manuscripts, testament to the many civil engineers working around the world to improve human welfare. Author organisations include the United Nations, RedR, Bridges to Prosperity and Engineers for Overseas Development.

My co-editer Andy Alder and I hope you will find the journal inspiring and useful, and also that the projects encourage you and your colleagues to share your own experiences of civil engineering for the greater good in ICE Proceedings journals.

For more information please contact the ICE Proceedings editor Simon Fullalove on, telephone +44 (0)20 8744 2028.