Home About Contribute Media Kit Contact Sign In


Construction Industry News

The History of Sustainable Engineering Solutions

Engineers are moving towards increasingly sustainable solutions. Government statistics show the contribution of waste by the construction, demolition, and excavation (CD&E) sector, accounts for 62 per cent of the UKs total waste. Therefore, the need to implement site waste management strategies has

The History of Sustainable Engineering Solutions

"Engineers are moving towards increasingly sustainable solutions. "
Cleveland Bridge

Engineers are moving towards increasingly sustainable solutions. Government statistics show the contribution of waste by the construction, demolition, and excavation (CD&E) sector, accounts for 62 per cent of the UK’s total waste. Therefore, the need to implement site waste management strategies has never been more important.


There are many examples of sustainable engineering being utilised in the past. But recent innovations have highlighted the need to create sustainable spaces. Here, we look at the history of sustainable engineering solutions, how it has paved the way for society today, and how we can build a future on its foundations.


Starting with sewers

While one may argue that ancient water distribution systems are the earliest form of sustainable engineering, modern sustainable engineering finds its beginnings in 19th century London.


Joseph Bazelgate designed the world’s first major sewer system to solve the Great Stink, where hot weather inflamed the smell of waste in the River Thames. Before the system, the sewers emptied directly into the river which was also the main supply of drinking water for the city. The design did more than change how waste was moved – it revolutionised how the public lived, with waterborne diseases reducing dramatically.


This intelligent design focused on improving environmental quality and the health of the population.  It also paved the way for the next millennium of engineering.


Bridging to today

Since then, sustainable engineering has picked up the pace. This is particularly true in terms of sustainable bridge development.


The method of creating bridges with a limited environmental impact is a result of the UN’s 1987 commission report, ‘Our Common Future’. The report emphasised “the present generations’ responsibility to regenerate, maintain and improve planetary resources for use by future generations.”.


The growing population meant that infrastructure, including bridges, was constructed at an increasing pace. In turn, this had detrimental consequences for the environment. The period saw a rapid increase in pollution from harmful emissions.


Nowadays, bridge construction considers longevity and maintenance in order to limit its environmental impact. Most bridge requirements stipulate a minimum serviceability of 100 years. Inspired by existing bridges, it’s understandable how bridge engineering can be designed with sustainability and longevity in mind. Today, sustainable engineering solutions must consider structural integrity and the ease of maintenance. Historically, the utilisation of local supplies has been essential. Now, that approach has been adopted again in order to limit material transportation.


Building the future

Activism surrounding the climate emergency has spotlighted the need to protect the environment.


In the future, sustainable strategies will drive longevity and change how the public interacts with the environment. Engineering will not just reflect the technical and economic feasibility but also how resources are used.


Smart technology will be integrated into engineering solutions, with algorithms dictating the most structurally sound structures. From this, engineers may consider using more natural materials in their designs. Garden walls, for example, are becoming increasingly common in cities with poor air quality.



Engineering is built on its history. New solutions are being built on the original principles of sustainable construction. As engineers learn to make more innovative designs, integrating technology and nature into their construction will be imperative. This will be particularly important for private sector companies looking to reduce their environmental impact. With this in mind, the history and future of sustainability will always focus on longevity, human impact, and environmental improvement.










Construction Business News - Rainscreen cladding manufacturer Sotech joins the Considerate Constructors Scheme amidst difficult working practices caused by Covid-19. The Scheme, founded to raise standards in the construction industry, is a mark of considerate building practices.

Sotech welcomed into Considerate Constructors Scheme

Construction Business News - Evidence shows that the view on gender has dramatically shifted in the past 35 years. In 1984, 42 per cent of people said that men are expected to be a family s breadwinner, further agreeing that women should be the main homemaker in a household.

Why Trade Roles Need More Diversity in 2021

Construction Business News - The future is approaching us at an accelerating pace, with technology and innovations shaping the way we think, act, and interact with the world around us. We re becoming accustomed to fast processors and rapidly growing cities. But their integration has been limited by innovation in the civil engineering sector.

Building Tomorrow The Future of Civil Engineering

Construction Business News - The Sotech team is delighted to welcome Simran Thiara who has joined the business full time as Regional Specification Manager for the South.

Sotech Welcomes Regional Specification Manager Simran Thiara

Construction Business News - Independent Design House IDH , the engineering design consultancy based in the UK and Poland, is consolidating a successful 2020 with the appointment of Ian Fernandes-Johnson as managing director, as Tim Burt moves into a new CEO position at the company.

New MD appointed as Independent Design House starts 2021 on a high

Construction Business News - CRA members are encouraged to submit their award entries for the following three categories Emerging Talent, for rising stars with less than five years in the industry Innovation of the Year, for a new product, repair technique, process, software or service and Project of the Year, for projects c...

Still time to enter Concrete Repair Association AGM Awards

Ten Times Ten

We transform your bright ideas into brilliant digital products.