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Policy Statement 418 - The Role of the Civil Engineer in Sustainable Development

Approved by the Committee for Sustainability on August 23, 2017
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018 


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) defines sustainability as a set of economic, environmental and social 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 economic, environmental and social resources. 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; and 
  • Principle 2 - Do the Project Right. The civil engineer shall actively engage stakeholders and secure public understanding and acceptance of a projects economic, environmental and social costs and benefits. To move toward conditions of sustainability, engineers must design and deliver projects that address sustainability holistically (from concept to demolition or reuse) rather than adding a variety of "green" features onto a conventional project.    

ASCE supports the following steps to achieve a sustainable project: 

  • Perform Life Cycle Assessment from Planning to Reuse. Project participants should use rigorous life cycle methodologies that quantify the economic, environmental and social 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. The feasibility of restoration, or return of depleted resources, shall be evaluated by the civil engineer;
  • Plan for Resiliency. Sustainability requires planning for the impact natural and man-made disasters and changing conditions can have on economic, environmental, and social resources; and
  • 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 EnvisionTM Rating System for sustainable infrastructure.


ASCE recognizes the leadership role of engineers in sustainable development, and their responsibility to provide effective and innovative solutions in addressing the challenges of sustainability. The ASCE Code of Ethics states that "Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties." ASCE works on a global scale to promote public recognition and understanding of the needs and opportunities for sustainable development and contribute to health communities.

Environmental, economic, social and technological development must be seen as interdependent and complementary concepts, where economic competitiveness 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