Fostering sustainability in infrastructure development schemes

In recent years much emphasis has been placed upon meeting the environmental and socioeconomic aims of sustainable development. This is being driven by government policy and industry initiatives, with the main emphasis placed on the building sector, where it is perceived that most benefits can be gained. Although financial incentives and drivers are perhaps more readily quantifiable in this market, the potential to mitigate the negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts associated with the development of infrastructure such as roads, drainage and utilities at a neighbourhood scale may be no less significant, if more difficult to measure. Despite this, relatively little attention has been paid to the sustainable design of infrastructure. In addition, change to the UK planning system has been identified as a key mechanism to deliver sustainability policy, but there appears to be a poor connection between planning policy and infrastructure implementation practices. Sustainable construction, planning policy and the notion of the engineer's role in sustainable infrastructure are explored in this paper, which concludes by presenting four areas where improved dialogue between stakeholders and enhancement of the engineer's role at an early stage could improve sustainability in infrastructure development projects.