Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering
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Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering

Andrew Braham, Sadie Casillas

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eBook - ePub

Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering

Andrew Braham, Sadie Casillas

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About This Book

This book provides a foundation to understand the development of sustainability in civil engineering, and tools to address the three pillars of sustainability: economics, environment, and society. It includes case studies in the five major areas of civil engineering: environmental, structural, geotechnical, transportation, and construction management. This second edition is updated throughout and adds new chapters on construction engineering as well as an overview of the most common certification programs that revolve around environmental sustainability.


  • Updated throughout and adds two entirely new chapters

  • Presents a review of the most common certification programs in sustainability

  • Offers a blend of numerical and writing-based problems, as well as numerous application-based examples that utilize concepts found on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam

  • Includes several practical case studies

  • Offers a solution manual for instructors

Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering is intended for upper-level civil engineering sustainability courses. A unique feature is that concepts found in the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam were targeted to help senior-level students refresh and prepare.

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1 Introduction to Sustainability

We hold the future in our hands, together, we must ensure that our grandchildren will not have to ask why we failed to do the right things, and let them suffer the consequences.
Ban Ki-moon
The term “sustainability” is currently very popular. Industries and organizations realize the benefits of protecting the future while succeeding in the present. In the present, sustainability is most often defined as incorporating three pillars into design: economics, environmental, and social. However, the general concepts of sustainability have been in use for millennia. The design and construction of Roman aqueducts for drinking water distribution were so robust that they have lasted centuries, with dozens of aqueducts built as early as 300 BC still standing today and the “Roman Road” still being used for movement of traffic. The Iroquois Native American confederacy has been in place since approximately the 12th century and uses the concept of sustainability in its constitution. Finally, today, there is a significant push for many sustainability initiatives, including more fuel-efficient vehicles on the roadways. Fuel-efficient vehicles address all three pillars of sustainability, by reducing fuel consumption (economics), decreasing emissions (environmental), and allowing more diverse transportation options for consumers (social or society). There are literally hundreds of existing books on sustainability discussing these and other concepts, but in order to demonstrate the development of sustainability overall, the United Nations will be used as an example to show how sustainability has been qualified and quantified over the past forty years.

1.1 The Development of Sustainability through the United Nations

The United Nations, or the UN, established in 1945 to avoid future conflicts on the scale of World War I and World War II, is an international organization made up of 193 member states as of 2016. Written in 1945, the UN’s charter (from contains four aims:
  1. 1. to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind,
  2. 2. to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,
  3. 3. to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  4. 4. to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
In order to strive toward achieving these four aims, four guidelines (also from were also established:
  1. 1. to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors,
  2. 2. to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security,
  3. 3. to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  4. 4. to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
This basis of international cooperation provides a logical place to begin examining the development of the concepts of sustainability. At the end of the day, while each individual nation can work toward becoming more sustainable, pollutants that cause acid rain do not distinguish between borders, waste that accumulates in oceans does not follow international water law, and rivers that are dammed in one country may reduce flow in a second country downstream. These issues are complex. Therefore, taking a global perspective helps ensure that all countries are working toward similar common goals.
The first significant milestone for sustainability within the UN was the World Conservation Strategy, developed in 1980 (IUCN, 1980). In this document, sustainability was described through three goals:
  1. 1. Maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems,
  2. 2. Preserve genetic diversity, and
  3. 3. Ensure sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems.
These three goals mainly revolve around the concept of protecting the environment, with terms such as “ecological processes,” “life support systems,” “genetic diversity,” “species,” and “ecosystems.” However, seven years later, in 1987, the UN released the Brundtland Commission Report, which is probably the most recognizable milestone in the UN’s sustainability development (Brundtland, 1987). Within the Brundtland Commission, a theme was developed to qualify sustainability. The theme reads that sustainability “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This theme is independent of protecting the environment, but the concept of the environment is still woven into the fabric of the theme. It is interesting that this concept is almost identical to the Constitution of the Iroquois Nations, which states (in part): “Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.”
Sidebar 01
To read more about the United Nations, visit their website at, or scan the following QR code:
In 2002 the UN hosted a World Summit on Sustainable Development, which for the first time defined what are called the three pillars of sustainability: economics, environment, and social (UN, 2002). During this summit, a key theme was the commitment to “building a humane, equitable, and caring global society, cognizant of the need for human dignity for all” at the local, national, regional, and global levels. With this new solid foundation of the three pillars, future conferences and summits began formulating objectives and themes around sustainability. For example, the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development put forth three objectives (UN, 2012):
  1. 1. Poverty eradication,
  2. 2. Changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and
  3. 3. Protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social developments...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering
APA 6 Citation
Braham, A., & Casillas, S. (2020). Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering (2nd ed.). CRC Press. Retrieved from (Original work published 2020)
Chicago Citation
Braham, Andrew, and Sadie Casillas. (2020) 2020. Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering. 2nd ed. CRC Press.
Harvard Citation
Braham, A. and Casillas, S. (2020) Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering. 2nd edn. CRC Press. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Braham, Andrew, and Sadie Casillas. Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering. 2nd ed. CRC Press, 2020. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.