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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

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Ahead of her CSIC Distinguished Lecture, Rachel Skinner CBE, Executive Director at WSP and former President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (2020-21) considers what ‘really good’ sustainable infrastructure for the 2020s might really look like.

This month’s blog brings focus to role of civil engineers and built environment professionals to shape the future sustainability of our infrastructure – and the importance of understanding the words we use to discuss and progress the challenge.

Time is against us. UK net zero targets state 2050 but it’s not a one-step journey. Thirty years reaches into the future beyond the working life of many professionals responsible for decision-making today, and exceeds political cycles. But that doesn’t take us off the hook. We must be accountable today and ask questions to identify what our contribution is, what is mine to do, and what is yours? Rachel Skinner CBE

Written by Rachel Skinner CBE, ahead of her CSIC Distinguished Lecture on 21 June, the Smart Infrastructure Blog considers the role of civil engineers in helping to shape a more sustainable and carbon zero future – and what needs to be done to reach this goal. Rachel writes: “We are at the front edge of understanding some of the most pressing challenges of our time and entering an era of thinking about infrastructure in an entirely different way.

“As civil engineers who create, maintain and improve the built environment, we have it in our hands to help shape the future. While 2050 is the net zero carbon emissions target date, we need to act now to understand the systems we seek to change, take ownership for what we can do and be bold in the decisions we can make to strategically create the change our sector needs.”

Rachel Skinner was the youngest president in the ICE’s 200-year history and chose the climate emergency and the vital role that civil engineers must play in achieving net zero carbon emissions as the focus for her presidency. In the blog titled ‘Sustainable infrastructure for the 2020s: what might ‘really good’ really look like?’ Rachel considers the role of language in addressing one of the biggest areas of most urgent change facing our industry: “Sustainability, net zero, and resilience are now mainstream terms that have become part of our everyday parlance. However, definitions can differ from person to person and organisation to organisation because we are all finding our way in uncharted territory. But we must get these basics right and take time to understand the words we are using, so that when we make key decisions there is clarity and we know what it is we are trying to do, measure and achieve.”

While net zero targets state 2050, Rachel calls for decision-makers to act now: “Time is against us. UK net zero targets state 2050 but it’s not a one-step journey. Thirty years reaches into the future beyond the working life of many professionals responsible for decision-making today, and exceeds political cycles. But that doesn’t take us off the hook. We must be accountable today and ask questions to identify what our contribution is, what is mine to do, and what is yours?”

• Read the CSIC Smart Infrastructure Blog ‘Sustainable infrastructure for the 2020s: what might ‘really good’ really look like?’ here.

• The CSIC Distinguished Lecture 2022 presented by Executive Director at WSP and former President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (2020-21), Rachel Skinner CBE is on 21 June at LT2, Department of Engineering, Trumpington Street, Cambridge. There will be a poster session and refreshments at 4.30pm in LR4 and the Distinguished Lecture will be 5.30pm to 6.45pm in LT2.

• Registration is now open. Please register now at  https://bit.ly/3MOYvB5

 

 

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