The risks of not responding to climate change are many and could be devastating for the building industry and for entire cities.

The climate liability lens is homing in on corporations. Are structures resistant to climate impacts and natural disasters, and do they offer a business continuance strategy for climate-inspired happenings? From a public image viewpoint, lessening and ultimately eliminating the carbon footprint upon our built environment is crucial.

The sustainability of building structures is merely one subject of the Engineers Declare movement, which has picked up momentum since its debut in September 2019–with more than 160 engineering firms and 2000 engineers making a declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency awareness stance.

Frequently, the sustainability of a project is centred around building services and energy, but we must get a holistic perspective of the manner in which we affect a greater sustainability. Embodied carbon created during the building’s construction has conventionally been overlooked by structural engineers, with few points accessible in conventional accreditation systems (like Greenstar) for using fewer carbon- intensive materials.

The Engineers Declare movement is shifting this emphasis. Ideally, it is the duty of structural engineers to get across the message that additional sustainable practices should be embedded into structural engineering projects.

It’s the job of structural engineers to share ways in which to reduce the carbon footprint with building designers and clients. Regionally sourced and sustainably managed timber leave a more minimal carbon footprint than materials like concrete and steel. Yet timber is not a workable building material for every project.

In those cases in which building materials leaving more substantial footprints such as steel and concrete are needed, structural engineers must promote the utilisation of  less carbon-intensive production methods, with choices that can be examined like recycled steel, more ecofriendly concrete with the use of fly ash, and recycled water. Geopolymer concretes are also being developed with substantially less carbon impact. Lightening up on material usage by way of sound structural design practice is also a sound outcome for the climate and the project economics.

The sustainable value of a business’ buildings bears a great deal of impact on its overall operation. In terms of the law, business owners must pinpoint pertinent climate risks. And when it comes to business insurance, underwriters are worrying more and more about a building’s climate resilience– being unwilling to insure certain structures due to their climate change risks.

Structural engineers must ensure that the buildings constructed today can resist loads which can be applied when the climate changes. Informing developers and building owners of how a changing climate might impact their building is essential to achieving this result. The heaviness of rainfall and affiliated flooding levels, hail and windstorms are relevant subjects to be examined and considered with the aid of developers, owners and operators.

Sustainability practices in structural design are a must, not a maybe. Sustainability must be considered as a whole across all disciplines, not restricted to building services and energy output.