Equity in Structural Engineering

Civil and environmental engineers design at the interface between the human and natural environment. They are conscious of how decisions affect the trajectory of communities—setting them on course for their unique economic, environmental, and demographic realities for decades, even centuries, to come.

Engineers in this field evaluate everything they do to how their work affects the lives of people. As structural engineers, this means thinking about projects within the context of the community for whom the project is built, calculating consequences beyond our clients, and understanding the perspectives of diverse stakeholders.

Dive Deeper: Critical Questions on Benefits and Harms

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; a bedrock principle of physics utilized in our profession, but also an important philosophical concept from which to learn. Engineers play an important role in shaping the built environment, and thus the communities contained within.

Traditionally, engineers design to reflect the needs and desires of a project’s direct stakeholders, but there are many others within a community who will experience the harms and benefits of the built environment. Oftentimes, the benefits and adverse impacts are not equitably or justly distributed. When they are not…

How is that distribution decided?

Who gets to decide?

Which communities get highway connections and which get the traffic noise and pollution?

Are our structural prototypes designed with commercial use preeminent, or are residential and community applications considered?

Who gets the benefits of the built environment and who gets the harms?

This issue, and its historical implications, are at the front of our minds to best train the next generation of engineers.