This is Part 2 of a 3 Part Series on Professional Credentials for Civil Engineers (Read 1 and 3). Sustainability credentials can enhance your engineer skills and differentiate you from your peers.
One of the primary reasons I became a civil engineer was because of the tangible impact I could make on the built environment. While I spend most of my time in the virtual world behind a desk, I also get the pleasure of seeing the physical outcomes of my designs as I drive around the local community. However, as I have worked in the industry I’ve come to realize that all projects are not created equal.
Put simply, some make us very proud and others just pay the bills. One thing I’ve noticed over the years, is that owners, developers, architects and engineers love to talk about and promote their projects where more than just the financial bottom-line was considered. Whether it is integrating the surrounding landscape, preserving a historic component of the site or just tackling a problem (or “opportunity” as our Dallas president calls them) in an innovative way, these projects focus on the triple bottom-line—People, Planet and Profits, aka the 3 Pillars of Sustainability.
Sustainability is not a fad that we can or should expect to go away. With more and more cities in DFW adopting iSWM (integrated Stomwater Management) and other sustainability metrics, young engineers can gain a competitive advantage by not only being educated in sustainability but having some credentials demonstrating their knowledge/experience too.
One of the most common credentials in this area is that of LEED AP (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Accredited Professional). But even this is outdated, since any new LEED APs are required to have a specific designation (e.g. LEED AP BD+C or LEED AP ND). However there are a bunch of other third-party sustainable rating systems as well some of which offer professional credentials. Without giving a comprehensive list, I want to share the ones that I have found the to be the most beneficial.
- LEED Green Associate: This is your basic credential for just about anyone in the building industry, be it engineer or financial analyst. If you can, take it while still in school to get a nice discount on the exam fees.
- LEED AP BD+C, ID+C, O+M, ND, Homes (insert appropriate designation): This is one of the most recognized/respected sustainability credentials. It usually requires experience in addition to knowledge of sustainable design. While you can get both the LEED Green Associate and LEED AP simultaneously (as I did), this is not the recommended/common path. The problem for Civil Engineers is that it doesn’t apply to us very well. It’s more suited for Architects, Mechanical-Electrical-Plumbing (MEP) Engineers and Interior Designers. LEED ND is the exception to that and probably suits Civil Engineers (especially Land Development Engineers) better than any other discipline.
- ENV SP (Envision Sustainability Professional): While this credential is new and largely unknown, it’s the real deal. Envision fills a niche that has previously been neglected—sustainable infrastructure (i.e. non-building infrastructure). In my opinion, this is the sustainability credential for Civil Engineers. Co-founded by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), it’s purpose is to improve the performance and resiliency of physical infrastructure. It’s easy and cheap to get and offers a ton of useful knowledge. Also, more and more projects are popping up as “Envision is quickly becoming the industry standard by which to measure, guide and improve the long-term sustainability of civil infrastructure” (source).
- Sustainable SITES Initiative: Another relatively new system, SITES does not currently have a professional credential associated with it yet. However, they are currently in negotiations with Green Business Certification Inc (GBCI), and you can expect to see one in the near future (2016?). While this does overlap with civil engineering, it may be more appropriate for landscape architects and land planners.
Some may argue the usefulness of these credentials, at the very least, you gain valuable knowledge of the most current trends in sustainable building. At most, you get to participate in designing and building an environment that you yourself want to live in and pass on to your (future) kids.