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Civil Engineer blog

Engineering and environmental professionals: why not be both?

05 October 2022

John Laverty, ICE head of qualifications, asks what motivates civil engineers to take on this dual role.

Engineering and environmental professionals: why not be both?
Sustainability is, and must always be, central to civil engineering’s outlook and concerns. Image credit: Patrizio M/Shutterstock

The ICE's purpose is to improve lives by ensuring the world has the engineering capacity and infrastructure systems it needs to allow our planet, and those who live on it, to thrive.

The ICE addresses that aim in three main ways:

  • Building a network of highly trained and competent civil engineers, with the ICE attributes (its standards of engineering competence and professional commitment) at the heart of that network.
  • Ensuring that infrastructure professionals have access to the very best insight, knowledge, and professional development.
  • Supporting decision makers to reach informed decisions to enable the most effective procurement, construction, operation, maintenance and ultimately, disposal of infrastructure.

As the ICE’s head of qualifications, I see all three as vital, but hold particular responsibility – along with our professional community – to ensure our standards are robust and relevant to civil engineering, the society it serves, and the planet.

One of the key motivators for taking on that role is the need to deal with challenges as a whole. Engineers have to balance different motives, often conflicting, and work out viable solutions.

There can be no sitting on the sidelines - it’s why civil engineers are central to shaping the world we live in.

Sustainability is key

Extending on this theme, civil engineering sits, by its very nature, at the intersection between the built and natural environments.

Sustainability is, and must always be, central to civil engineering’s outlook and concerns.

To that end, the ICE sets the climate emergency as a central, cultural feature in the development and work of civil engineers and technicians.

It goes on to embed the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) in its professional standards.

That framework is not prescriptive in detail, but it sets the expectation that professional civil engineers and technicians will make sustainability core to their work.

The overlap between professional engineers and professional environmentalists

Looking more closely at the Society for the Environment’s ambitions to support sustainability through environmental professionalism, the Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) competence A3 (below) captures a central feature of what civil engineers do:

Chartered Environmentalist competence A3

“Analyse and evaluate problems from an environmental perspective, develop practical sustainable solutions and anticipate environmental trends to develop practical solutions.”

The overlap between the standards set for professional engineers and professional environmentalists creates both opportunities and challenges for those us in the engineering community involved in promoting environmental qualifications.

Many engineers will have the competence to qualify as CEnv, Registered Environmental Practitioner (REnvP), or Registered Environmental Technician (REnvTech).

However, not all will feel the need to add them to their engineering qualifications. Currently, only a minority take that extra step.

We have members who express the benefits very clearly, and often, it’s a dual professional identity that motivates them to hold both qualifications.

Dr Kate Ibottson’s blog brings that personal experience to life.

Become a Resilience Champion

Do you want to be part of sharing the latest and greatest solutions to address the climate crisis?

Help us deliver best practice by becoming an ICE Resilience Champion, an initiative from incoming ICE President Anusha Shah celebrating sustainable, inclusive and resilient infrastructure.

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We want to hear from you

The insight about dual identity could open ways for CEnv, REnvP, and REnvTech to gain wider recognition in the engineering profession.

At the moment, given that sustainability is already embedded within engineering qualifications, we find that the CEnv qualification can be unintentionally marginalised.

It can be seen as either a niche qualification for specific roles within the engineering team, or as an individual choice reflecting personal priorities.

We want to explore whether bringing environmental and engineering professional qualifications together, perhaps by adopting dual assessments, might encourage more engineers to show they belong to both professional communities.

If anyone has insights or experience to share, I would very much like to hear from you.

In turn, we’ll be keen to share our findings as we try testing those ideas in practice.

Find out more about becoming a Chartered Environmentalist.

Learn more

  • John Laverty, head of qualifications at ICE