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The Coasts, Oceans, Ports and Rivers Institute (COPRI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) defines sustainability as a set of environmental, economic and social conditions applicable to engineering activities in coasts, oceans, ports, waterways, rivers and wetlands settings in which all of society has the capacity and the opportunity to maintain and improve its quality of life indefinitely without degrading the quantity, quality or the availability of natural, economic and social resources.


With planning horizons that are often 50 years or more, engineering decisions made today affect the quality of life for earth’s citizens well into the future. Crises in resource availability and environmental quality require that development decisions consider and avoid unintended consequences.

Sustainability has been identified as a foundational aspect of engineering by ASCE, which, in 1996, made sustainable development part of its canon of civil engineering practices. It is incumbent on engineering professionals to understand and apply the principles of sustainable development to infrastructure projects to protect and, where possible, restore social, environmental and economic quality.

COPRI members are in a preeminent position, with their specialized expertise, ethics and professional judgment, to advocate for a fundamental definition that can inform, at a very basic level, sustainable development in the four practice areas of the Institute.


The general definition of sustainability, applied at the policy level, lacks specificity to modern civil engineering practice. To overcome this, ASCE has adopted a definition that is clearly adapted to modern civil engineering practice and other related disciplines. COPRI’s definition of sustainability aligns ASCE’s definition with the four practice areas of COPRI. A common definition among COPRI members will encourage and promote sustainability as a fundamental principle of good engineering practice. This common definition will be applied to all sustainability activities in all COPRI committees.

COPRI Policy Statement 1
Approved by the Sustainability Committee on January 28, 2011
Approved by the Policy Review Committee on September 30, 2011
Adopted by the COPRI General Board on January 13, 2012