Sustainability Guidelines for the Structural Engineer can enhance your practice


    A new reference is available to help structural engineers understand how they can participate in making structures more sustainable. The 324-page book, Sustainability Guidelines for the Structural Engineer, was written collaboratively by a cross-section of the structural engineering community, including design consultants, academics, and industry representatives — all members of SEI’s Sustainability Committee. Each chapter was peer reviewed by both committee members and outside experts. This ground-breaking text gives structural engineers specific tools and strategies to improve their designs today. Using an even-handed and balanced approach, we give you the information and explain the strategies, so you can make the best decisions for your particular project. While the book does look forward to emerging technologies, the emphasis is on what is currently relevant. A number of case studies from the United States and United Kingdom demonstrate how meaningful sustainability improvements are achieved by structural engineers.

    How the guidelines can enhance your practice
    The book covers everything from how structural engineers can contribute to integrated design, to ratings systems, durability, toxicity, materials, and case studies. The environmental impacts of structures are explained as they relate to each material, which will help structural engineers educate other design team members about the importance of the structural contribution to the sustainability of a project. The full table of contents is online at the committee website Here’s a look at how the book can enhance your practice:

    Sustainability Guidelines for the Structural Engineer is available for purchase through ASCE publishing. Encourage your company or university to obtain a copy for their library.
    Courtesy ASCE

    You are working on a project for an existing steel, timber, and brick building. Part of the building will be demolished, and an addition built. Can you salvage the steel, timber, and brick for reuse on the new structure? Sustainabiltiy Guidelines for the Structural Engineer provides specific information on material separation, identification, strength testing, design caveats, and what to include in your specification.

    You finally have a client that wants to use “green concrete.” The concrete chapter includes detailed information on good mix design practice and using high volumes of complementary cementing materials such as fly ash and slag. The focus is on reducing the CO2 impact of concrete, and best practices for water, formwork, curing and sealing compounds, recycled aggregate, and specifications.

    Are you designing a new steel building? This could be an opportunity to practice Design for Adaptability and Deconstruction (DfAD). In integrated team design environments, structural engineers have the opportunity to introduce these strategies. The book describes how to design a project to be deconstructable at the end of its life. Strategies include keeping systems separate, designing simple and removable connections, and sizing members appropriately.

    Everybody is talking about Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); you don’t have a lot of available bandwidth, but you want to know what it means for your practice. The book uses a building to illustrate the concepts and components of an LCA report, and discusses how the structural engineer can contribute to an LCA.

    While many of the subjects presented are related, each section — and their subsections — have been written to stand alone. All chapters are fully referenced, with citations and additional resources listed at the end of each chapter.

    Through our engineering practice we can reduce the major environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of buildings. Sustainability Guidelines for the Structural Engineer will help you reduce your clients’ ecological footprint by improving your knowledge about best available sustainable engineering practice. You will see your projects in a broader context, and you will have new approaches and tools to address the challenges of sustainability.

    Helena Meryman, LEED AP BD&C, is an independent sustainability consultant in San Francisco and vice-chair of SEI’s Sustainability Committee. She can be reached at The committee’s website is