On the first official World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, we are incredibly pleased to take time to celebrate many wonderful achievements from engineers advancing towards the sustainable development goals. At Innovyze our business is made up of many incredibly talented engineers from our software development through to our product management team. Today, we had the pleasure to ask a handful of the engineers that work at Innovyze where that passion started and why sustainable engineering is important to them.
"I was licensed as a Professional Engineer (Civil) in 2003. There were 2 major factors in my decision to become an engineer 1) I found that the practical application of physics, math, art, was a relative strength of mine and I really got satisfaction from it. 2) I wanted to be a positive force in society – contributing meaningfully to people’s lives, the community and the environment. Engineering allows me to contribute in a tangible, significant way!
Water is Life. It seemed to me that water-related engineering had the most potential to affect human civilisation and the environment. I also really enjoy the presence of water in my life as a source of recreation, comfort, inspiration and beauty.
As I noted, one of the key reasons I became an engineer is to contribute to society and well-being of humans and our earth. That inherently requires sustainability – if I am to reach my goals I must have an impact beyond “right here, right now”. My role at Innovyze allows me to direct our company’s resources to innovation that empowers sustainable water infrastructure. Water infrastructure is a long term investment and a necessity for human civilization, so I have a great opportunity to drive the development and deployment of analytics solutions that support development of a basic foundational element of sustainability".
Senior Developer, Workgroup products, United Kingdom
"My degree was maths, with an emphasis on computational linear algebra. In my first job, for a big software company, they put people who were more counter-cultural into the weather and water group, and I'd been a member of the Ecology Party when I was a student, so I started working in water. Then my second job was mathematical, and more to do with models of factories and minimising waste. So going into water was by accident really.
I decided to become an engineer because it's good to have a job where you're making a difference to the world – not designing missiles and so on.
In the light of climate change, you want to reduce the resources you need to do things. Using Innovyze software, you don't need to build in big safety margins, such as building bigger structures with lots of extra concrete. And you want to minimise energy usage for pumping.
My favourite thing at work is holding everything together across the Workgroup products. I keep an eye open and make sure that our developers don't make a change in one product, such as InfoAsset Manager, that would affect another product such as InfoWorks ICM."
Vice President Asia, Australia
"I have a passion for maths and science and I decided to become an engineer so that I could solve real world problems. Since becoming an engineer in 1992, I’ve worked in Fiji, Australia and Manila, solving engineering problems with advanced computational methods
Part of being sustainable is solving engineering solutions in a way that encapsulates and emulates natural processes. Civilisation has been slowly destroying the world and we need to have solutions that protect our future generations by creating an environment that replicates the natural world.
I've been fortunate over the last 25 years watching the advances of Innovyze software facilitate that need for digital representation that imitates natural systems over historical methods and the sustainable outcomes have been truly wonderful to witness."
Sales Engineer, Water Supply, United Kingdom
"I'm a geographer. I enjoyed water and design at university; my dissertation was on the relationship between different factors in the environment and how they affect runoff and river levels. This led me down a statistical path and that's how I fell into modelling.
From my degree, I went more down the flooding route because it had environmental factors. I didn't know about the other types of water engineering at the time. You're designing structures and flood alleviation, which you want for a better world. You're doing it for a good reason. In the water industry it's to help people – to stop flooding and ensure people have clean water. Now I'm focusing on clean water, by chance, because of the work that's come up.
What we do is going to be there for future generations. When I do an engineering scheme, sustainability is always considered as part of the cost – there's a factor for maintenance, for how long it'll last, for how much carbon it'll use and how much land you're using. It's important for getting schemes approved. You want to have the least impact."
Software Solutions Engineer, Australia
"I became an engineer in 2007 and have worked in Canada, US and Australia. I have a Masters of Engineering Design (Sustainable Infrastructure and Product Design).
I was sitting in high school getting good marks in maths and science, and identified graduating with an engineering degree as a direct pathway to being a professional – Engineers get to apply science, math and design! I also wanted an iron ring (Canadian thing – a symbol of the obligations and ethics associated with the engineering profession)!
I decided on environmental engineering because I was more interested in water and the environment rather than something structural or mechanical related. I was interested in nature and how sound design could improve quality of life for people and their communities. When it comes to sustainability, it’s the triple bottom line, incorporating people, planet, profit - and holistic design.
From a design engineering standpoint, I remember seeing a documentary called End of Suburbia and if I recall correctly it was literally a narrative, speaking to how the design of many aspects of our society were actually done in a short sighted manner. The way in which our infrastructure and planning was detrimentally contributing to the environment and how a lack of foresight and poor design was a main culprit. It was early days for me so it was a real eye-opener, really alarming in terms of the impacts that short sighted decision making can misguide our decisions and long-term outcomes for our quality of life, connectivity within our communities and the consequences on our environment. As an engineer and designer, if I could understand the root causes of these issues – I could build from and do better than how things were.
Our software digitally represents immensely complex reality and countless variables over substantial time horizons to create holistic solutions and sustainable designs that incorporate long-term planning horizons, asset life cycles, and optimal operations where you can now even predict the future! The nature of the products we create and distribute (being 1s and 0s) do not create CO2 or contribute waste to the environment – they actually enable utilities, consultants and industry practitioners to reduce said emissions and waste and to take on the water issues confronting the world."
Product Marketing Manager, USA
"I graduated from university in 2007 and got my official engineering stamp in 2010. I grew up in the construction trade, both my father and grandfather were career construction labourers and construction supply people. I originally went to college for astronomy and quickly found that the last person that got a job in astronomy was my astronomy professor. With that, I ended up drifting towards engineering and have always had a passion for water, river streams and the ocean. I found gravitation towards that.
Growing up on the west coast of the US I have seen the decades where focus was on convenience rather than what suits nature and I've witnessed how our river streams habitat have all really suffered. So, the idea of sustainability and long-term longevity of the systems acutely important.
It's my job each day at Innovyze to make sure that all the value and hard work that the development teams are building can be represented by our team to highlight the benefits that our customers will be getting with their software. We're directly moving that needle forward ensuring our customers know about these advanced software solutions and getting the word out so to speak.
Senior Storm & Flood Engineer, Australia
"My dad is an engineer and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I became a civil engineer in 2008. Then in my first job, they put me in stormwater. I also love the ocean and being around the waterways.
Sustainability is important for me because I care about the environment. I like time out in the natural environment. We need to protect those areas so we can continue to enjoy these spaces and it's really important that we do whatever we can to keep our environment as pristine as possible. On a day-to-day basis we influence the rest of the industry to create sustainable development, and allow local councils to look at long-term sustainable development for their entire area."
Senior Support Analyst, United Kingdom
"I got an MEng in civil engineering at university. I was interested in how things work, coming up with solutions, and building things – not just the maths. I chose civil because someone offered me sponsorship. It was on the south coast of England, and they had a focus on coastal hydraulics. So for my first job I joined a small hydraulic modelling company, and I've been in water ever since. I was interested in energy and renewables too.
My daily work is helping customers' engineers use InfoWorks ICM to come up with sustainable solutions. At the moment there's a heavy focus on SuDS to store rainfall, rather than putting pipes or storage tanks in the ground. They use up land, and selling the economics is the hardest bit.
We do climate assessments based on the latest projections. Our industry uses the UKCP18 projections, which vary regionally and look at 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s, depending on the design horizon you're interested in. From current guidance the rainfall uplift goes up to 40% and the peak flows 105% for 2080s.
I feel sustainability is important. We're trying to work with nature and complement natural systems. With water, if you're not sustainable you can worsen the projections of climate change. The water industry needs to be doing all it can as it will feel the brunt of the impact. The Environment Agency has estimated that an average annual investment of £1 billion will be necessary up to 2065 to maintain the current flooding risk in England and Wales."
Client Services Manager, Australia
"I decided to become a civil engineer because I wanted to interact with society in some way. When I was a kid I loved to create things and I first thought about architecture. I then realised that architecture was more of the dreaming up part and engineering was a direct impact to those things being built in our communities.
My initial thoughts were not to go towards the water industry. I was more passionate about foundations - building bridges and how they would be supported by the terrain on the ground. I really liked how you could see them get built. I used to be a part-time teacher before graduating in sewer design and water supply design and since 1993 I’ve worked in Colombia, the US, Australia and Malaysia.
Sustainability really became important to me because I used to think that I could solve problems for flooding by putting concrete in and changing the flow. That was the thought process - convenience. I didn’t realise that I was disrupting nature by trying to solve these challenges. Then I realised by linking with environmental engineers that the best way to go is with the pathway that nature has already provided. That’s how I became a sustainable engineer and realised you must always think about the impacts on the Earth in your practice."
Yves Abou Rjeily
Regional Sales Manager, United Kingdom
"When I decided to go from civil to hydraulic engineering, it was for two reasons. Firstly, in my fifth year of studying civil engineering, we chose between structures, geotechnology, water and so on. I discovered we didn't have many water engineers in Lebanon. Secondly, I think it's the future. Water is the most important resource.
The population is increasing, so we need more water resources. And the network is affected by several factors, so it's important to study that too. There's climate change and urbanization. With people moving away from the countryside, there's more demand on the water network, so you need an efficient distribution system; there's less permeable soil; and therefore there's an increased volume of water in the drainage network. So I chose water engineering because it brings responsibility and the decisions are important.
Engineering has a lot of responsibility towards citizens and the environment. We try to consider many safety factors but there are small things in design and operation that could affect a lot of lives.
Sustainable engineering is important for the same reasons. Already the water domain is under a lot of stress. We need systems that can work for longer and meet the demands of future generations.
We have SuDS/LID to address the volumes of stormwater caused by climate change and urbanisation. And for aging infrastructure, it's not feasible to design completely new networks, so we use tools that prolong the life of existing networks, such as real-time modelling, digital twins, improved network management, and improved operations, such as collecting stormwater [for direct use]. We need to prolong the life of assets – it's much cheaper than replacing them.
There's also quality of water to consider, and reducing flooding and the risk to life.
The region I serve is North Africa, Turkey, Greece, the Middle East and India. Turkey has been facing a crisis of flooding, for example. It's similar for Greece, the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Before, Saudi Arabia was hoping to have rain, but now they're starting to have problems with flooding and so need sustainable solutions.
And clean water can be scarce. When you see how much desalinated water costs, you see the need to have advanced transport and distribution. Leakage is more costly than in the UK, for example."