Engineers Australia

Sustainable Resilient Ground Engineering

Professor Nick O'Riordan

The pressures of urbanization place demands on city infrastructure and connections between cities. The rapid urbanization in the latter half of the 20th century was carried out against a backdrop of depletion of limited natural resources, generation of wastes, including greenhouse gases, and inefficient use of energy. The Bruntland Commission and subsequent report of 1987 recognized this behaviour as globally unsustainable.

Over the past 25 years, much effort has been expended to establish carbon emissions on a country by country basis in order to enable reductions against a baseline to be demonstrated. There has been a transformation in energy consumption in commercial and residential buildings as a result of concerted efforts in energy conservation. However the construction of buildings and infrastructure, and the operations and maintenance of infrastructure has received comparatively little attention, despite being responsible for around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The presentation concentrates on the use of carbon accounting and embodied energy methods for a wide range of ground engineering construction activities. The concepts of Capital and Operational Carbon and associated payback period are examined and examples show how this holistic approach can result in design changes and considered choices in construction and maintenance means and methods.

Recent natural and man-made disasters have underlined the importance of a ‘Repairable Limit State’ that is important when design resilient infrastructure. Again examples of approaches to coastal protection works, embankments, railway trackbed and buried pipelines are provided in which carbon accounting principles are applied.

Engineers Australia members participating in AGS technical sessions can record attendance on their personal CPD logs. Members should refer to Engineers Australia CPD policy for details on CPD types, requirements and auditing guidelines.