Code word for good conduct
SUSTAINABILITY is the new black for engineers. The oldfashioned images of engineering being a far cry from caring about and planning for the environment have been re- drawn as a new breed of environmental engineer seeks sustainable solutions.
Like many engineers, 35- year- old Robert Metzke enjoyed a strong background in maths and science. After graduating from Monash with a science and engineering degree in 1995, he found the industry as satisfying as he had hoped.
Engineering provided a career that allowed me to use these strengths to produce a tangible result,’’ he says.
Mr Metzke works in the sustainable engineering field with Solar Systems, an innovative Melbourne- based company that builds and operated solar concentrator photovoltaic ( PV) electricity generation system.
The company also manufactures solar power components and has a significant research and development program.
My current role involves coordinating a team to design part of a solar powered el ectri c i t y generator,’’ Mr Metzke says. The generator should put out 154 megawatts of power which is roughly enough for 45,000 homes.’’
The heart of the concept is the use of mirrors in the shape of a dish to reflect the sun into a central collection point, concentrating the sun 500 times.
An array of high- efficiency PV cells converts the sunlight into electricity. The electricity is converted to grid- quality supply and exported to the local grid.
In 2005, Solar Systems was a winner in the 2005 Engineering Excellence Awards.
For Mr Metzke, working on the cutting edge means that there is no precedent for failure.
‘‘ There is no manual to what we do, as it hasn’t been done before,’’ he says. ‘‘ The result of our work helps makes the world a better place.’’
Also working to improve the planet is the manager of the environmental practice at engineering consultancy Norman Disney Young ( NDY), Mark Thompson.
‘‘ We are working with the new Royal Children’s Hospital to reduce its carbon emission for comparable hospitals by 40 per cent,’’ Mr Thompson says.
Responsible for the provision of Ecologically Sustainable Development ( ESD) services across building sciences, building simulation and sustainable design, Mr Thompson says that the $ 900M project will incorporate a wide range of sustainable innovations. It’s by far the biggest project in Australia,’’ he says.
A graduate with a degree in energy engineering from London’s Southbank University, Mr Thompson explains that the ESD staff advise on around 99 per cent of NDY projects. It is companies such as NDY that Sustainability Victoria ( SV) is seeking to attract through projects aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.
‘‘ Sustainability Victoria’s purpose is to show the way to using our resources more efficiently,’’ says engineer Lisa Crowley.
As a project manager concentrating on the built environment sector, Ms Crowley is working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings to mitigate against the impact of climate change.
Ms Crowley, who graduated in 2003 with a double degree in business and engineering from RMIT, felt that the combination would allow her to straddle two often very different spheres.
‘‘ You have to be able to do the business and the tech talk,’’ she says.
Ms Crowley adds that communicating sustainable changes is critical to getting business and industry on side: I think that sustainability will change the way we all do business. In the future, sustainability will be the foundation of what we do.
It does not mean that other businesses and other areas won’t cease to exist, but their approach needs to adapt to reflect the impact of what they are doing.’’
According to Dr Kim Dowling, good engineering design is, by its very nature, sustainable. We live and work in built environments. Engineers deliver these to us and sustainability is core to good economic, environmental and social practice,’’ she says.
As Acting Head of School at the School of Science and Engineering at the University of Ballarat, Dr Dowling feels that many universities have gone down the nomenclature path to sustainability, meaning they change the name of civil engineering to environmental engineering.
‘‘ It achieves greater enrolment numbers ( particularly more women turn on to the notion of a better engineered solution) but the context remains,’’ she says.
‘‘ The engineers responsible for many of the ancient Roman towns appreciated water and air quality, were mindful of solid and liquid waste management, reused materials, built on a human scale and built for a mindset of the perpetual and not for the throw- away,’’ says Dr Dowling.
This is the job of our civil engineers, this is what our engineering graduates do ( and while) the scale may not always be as grand as an entire Roman town, even the smallest country road can have a negative environmental impact if poorly designed.’’
Reducing the carbon footprint: Work begins on melbourne’s new Royal Children’s Hospital