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Insights Building a career for a sustainable future

The Global Construction 2030 report reveals that over the next decade construction output will expand by 85%. Though millions of housing units need to be built around the world to accommodate the growing population, such an expansion is a threat to our environments and the species that inhabit them. Professionals are now dedicating their careers to delivering smarter construction solutions and sustainability has rightfully made its way onto the agenda for many governing bodies.

Freya Crunden, an environmental consultant at AtkinsRéalis , encouragingly remarks that there is no single way into a career in sustainability because sustainability covers a breadth of areas, from carbon emissions and biodiversity to community and finance. This means that for anyone looking to taking their passion for the environment and turn it into a career, there are many options. Let's take a look at some of the most exciting jobs in this realm and how you can build a career for a sustainable future.

Why sustainability is important to us

Sustainability is about creating a world that we're all happy to live in and proud to pass onto the next generation, knowing that we've built a better future for them. It’s a bold claim to say that a career in sustainability is a chance to save the world but it’s one that we stand by. At Atkins, we’re proud to be supporting people who are committed to finding a career where they can help to cut carbon emissions, preserve biodiversity and reduce our overall impact on the environment.

A sustainable career in infrastructure

The Upcycle – a book written by an architect and chemist to make a case for a better-designed world – states that “Human beings don't have a pollution problem; they have a design problem.”Urbanisation and population growth have drained our natural resources, not because the rate we’ve used them at but the way we’ve used them.

When bringing a green building to life, architects will work alongside civil and mechanical engineers, urban planners and building surveyors. They’re responsible for designing energy, waste and waters systems that have the lowest impact on the surrounding landscape. As costs for building materials and concern for our impact on the environment both mount in equal measures, green architects with innovative and cost-effective solutions will be more highly sought after.

Buildings not only need to be constructed from eco-friendly materials, but they must also incorporate energy-saving techniques. There’s a growing trend within architecture and surveying to use smart city technologies to help design these sustainable buildings. The use of these technologies has allowed architects to push the boundaries of design and shift their focus to other areas, such as biophilic design. Biophilia is based on the understanding that humans enjoy better health and wellbeing when they are closer to nature. As a result, we see buildings like the Nanjing Vertical Forest which not only connect people in large cities with the outdoors, but this particular building can reduce CO2 emissions by around 18 tons each year.

A sustainable career in engineering

Not long ago, sustainability was the latest trend within construction but a few years on and sustainable construction has become mainstream and more niche sustainability trends are emerging. Sustainability within civil engineering was first understood to be incorporating “green” elements in a design but the concept has transformed and is now accepted as the foundation of any building or structure.

According to the British Assessment Bureau, sustainable construction is: using renewable resources, reducing energy consumption, creating a healthy environment, and protecting the natural environment. Because the construction sector is accountable for 36% of the world’s energy consumption, civil engineers have the important job of pulling all these factors together and using them to design a holistic approach.

Today's engineers are extremely privileged because they have access to some cutting-edge technology, including AI tools which take the menial tasks off their hands and leave them with more time to tackle the complex issues within sustainability. Additionally, they have use of Building information modelling (BIM) technology which is used to survey a site before building begins and creates 3D visualisations of the design. BIM is celebrated for advancing sustainability by helping to reduce the amount of energy and materials consumed over a project lifecycle and therefore allowing those projects to be delivered at a lower financial and environmental cost. With technology now playing a central role in the daily life of an engineer, hiring managers are seeking candidates who have experience in data analysis and even coding in some cases.

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Equality, diversity & inclusion

Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion

A sustainable career in transportation

Transportation can't only be about making travel more efficient and cutting down on fuel emissions. While these are both important factors for sustainable project managers to consider, for it to tick all the sustainability checkboxes it needs to introduce and enhance wildlife habitats. When environmental laws regarding air pollution and noise pollution started getting stricter, the transportation sector saw sustainable practices as a challenge. Since companies have recognised how important it is to construct roads, railway systems, bridges, tunnels and ports that both minimise disturbances and support the surrounding ecosystem, the view has shifted from a challenge to an opportunity.

This is just how we viewed it when we began our joint venture to upgrade a key section of the A14 which passed through the flatlands of Cambridge. Our environmental consultants helped to deliver a design that created high corridors and tunnels for wildlife, a new network of lakes for protected species and realigned a river so that it worked with, and not against, the water course.

Build a sustainable career with AtkinsRéalis

If you’re searching for a rewarding career, then look no further than sustainability. At AtkinsRéalis , we have a strong portfolio of brands - including Atkins, Faithful+Gould and Acuity – and a network of 50,000 professionals in over 50 countries. Our world-class expertise means that a job with us is an opportunity to make a real difference and work on some of the most exciting sustainability projects. View our cities and development jobs or browse the latest project, programme and cost management jobs.