Approved by the Committee for Sustainability on June 6, 2023
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on June 15, 2023,
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 22, 2023
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) defines sustainability as a set of environmental, social, and economic conditions (aka "The Triple Bottom Line") in which all of society has the capacity and opportunity to maintain and improve its quality of life indefinitely without degrading the quantity, quality, or the availability of environmental, social, and economic resources. Infrastructure shall be planned, designed, constructed, operated, and maintained, and decommissioned in a manner that addresses quantifiable and non-quantifiable environmental, social, and economic benefits and costs over its entire life cycle. Sustainable development is the application of these resources to enhance the safety, welfare, and quality of life for all of society.
Civil engineers shall be committed to the following ASCE Principles of Sustainable Development:
- Principle 1 - Do the right project: A proposed project's economic, environmental, and social effects on each of the communities served and affected must be assessed and understood by all stakeholders before there is a decision to proceed with a project. Consider non-structural as well as structural (built) solutions to the needs being addressed.
- Principle 2 - Do the project right: The civil engineer shall actively engage stakeholders and secure public understanding and acceptance of a project’s environmental, social, and economic costs, risks, and benefits. To move toward conditions of sustainability, engineers must design and deliver projects that address sustainability holistically from concept to demolition or reuse.
ASCE supports the following steps to achieve a sustainable project:
- Consider project scope: Civil engineers can make the strongest impact if sustainable principles have guided the project infrastructure solution from the earliest phases of planning, which should additionally include involvement of civil design, construction, and operations engineers in the planning process.
- Perform life cycle assessment from planning to demolition or reuse: Project participants should use rigorous life cycle methodologies that quantify the environmental, social, and economic effects of the project.
- Use resources wisely, minimize use of non-renewable resources: Sustainable development shall include progressive reductions in resource use for a given level of service and resiliency. Engineers should not damage or diminish the ability of ecological systems to produce renewable resources or deliver services, nor should they manage non-renewable resources in a way that makes them unavailable for future use. That means recycling non-renewable resources or designing infrastructure assets so that at the end of life, elements can be reused or up cycled.
- Incorporate resiliency: Resilience requires preparing for and adapting to changing conditions and being able to withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions. To be sustainable, environmental, social, and economic resources should address the impact of these changing conditions.
- Validate application of principles: Civil engineers must guide project development and validate the application of these principles by using metrics and rating tools such as the Envision™ Rating System for sustainable infrastructure.
ASCE recognizes the leadership role of engineers in sustainable development, and our responsibility to provide effective and innovative solutions in addressing the challenges of sustainability. ASCE holds paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. The ASCE Code of Ethics states that "Engineers shall:
- Adhere to the principles of sustainable development
- Address environmental, social, and economic impacts, along with opportunities for improvement, in their work
- Mitigate adverse environmental, social, and economic effects
- Use resources wisely while minimizing resource depletion"
ASCE works on a global scale to promote public recognition and understanding of the needs and opportunities for sustainable development and its contribution to healthy communities. Environmental, social, economic, and technological development must be seen as interdependent and complementary concepts, where economic competitiveness, social progress, and ecological sustainability are complementary aspects of the common goal of improving the quality of life.
Civil engineers have a leading role in planning, designing, building, and ensuring a sustainable future by providing the bridge between science and society. In this role, engineers must actively promote and participate in multidisciplinary teams with other professionals, such as ecologists, economists, and sociologists, and work with the communities served and affected to effectively address the issues and challenges of sustainable development.
This policy has worldwide application.
ASCE Policy Statement 418
First Approved in 1993