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Rear view of hispanic engineer (30s) holding plans, looking at power station.
Rear view of hispanic engineer (30s) holding plans, looking at power station.

Engineers are involved in many important facets of the green revolution. Anywhere that a building interacts with the environment, there is potential need for the services of a competent engineer. This is true whether you are talking wind, water, sunshine or earth. Higher education can be a great vehicle for training people in the technology that has the potential to revolutionize the green movement. Science and education may be the answer to making substantive changes to the organization and function of our societies.

1. Passive Solar Design

Passive solar is not about creating energy from the sun. It is about reducing the need for electricity by using intelligent design to keep a building comfortable. Using less energy to achieve the same or better level of comfort requires good design. It is also a superior approach to the problem. Passive solar seeks to capture heat energy passively, via avenues such as window orientation and built-in heat sinks. It can also heat water for residential use using the warmth of the sun.

2. Hydrology

People who have completed online civil engineering degree programs are not just involved in making green buildings;they also play a significant role in dealing with water resources. Water issues are rapidly turning into a more critical global problem than energy production. Civil engineers are involved in accessing ground water, distributing water to farms via canals, and running dams to manage water resources while also creating electricity.

3. Geographic Information Systems

Maps and the data attached to them are increasingly important to our ability to manage urban and environmental resources effectively at scale. This is another area where you often see people with an engineering background. GIS is more than just mapping the data you have. It involves integrating existing systems such that the mapping software has access to up-to-date information. It plays an increasingly important role in urban planning.

4. Making Density Work

Dense cities are better for the environment. They serve the purpose of concentrating human populations in a small area, thereby freeing up land for critical functions like food production. Dense cities do not happen without the involvement of civil engineers to help design skyscrapers that can take the wind, public transit to make an urban core work and to deal with general traffic management and load-bearing issues.

The green revolution is already happening and needs to continue on to the next stage of its development. The main actors in a green revolution are likely to come from STEM disciplines, which makes our higher education centers central to our continued progress in the green sector. There is only so much that can be done at the individual level. Things will not change in a truly revolutionary way until our buildings and built environments get in on the action. Designing more intelligently requires an understanding of exactly the kinds of things that civil engineers study.