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CIBSE Annual Lecture 2016: Engineers challenged to save civilisation

Building services engineers are the people who can save civilisation from the threat of climate change, heard the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) lecture audience last night.

Speaking at the Institution’s Annual Lecture Fiona Cousins, PE, CIBSE, ARUP and LEED Fellow, set out a vision for engineers taking the lead in the fight against climate change by working with policy makers and the public to champion sustainability.

Citing examples through history of engineers using their skills to solve societal issues, Fiona then laid out a pathway to success with this more muscular approach: Engineers should be unafraid to use their expert knowledge to challenge people in other professions and politics over issues such as sustainability and efficiency and ‘inhabit’ their role, championing the highest standards in everything they do.

Sounding a note of caution, Fiona noted that this outlook will require engineering to change from within too. There is no room for ‘just good enough’ when tackling the greatest challenge in a generation, and engineering professionals will have to commit themselves to push for the highest possible standards in themselves and others when creating projects that work and are sustainable.

Fiona Cousins, Principal at Arup New York, said ”It is obvious to anyone that climate change is the greatest challenge facing this generation and the next, and we have never had more tools available to help us fight it. Anyone can come up with grand designs, but it takes an engineer to ensure that they work.

“As an engineer, you have all the knowledge necessary to save the world – what we need now is the confidence to be world leaders too. A good engineer is technically competent, a great engineer thinks how their role can benefit wider society. We need to know our stuff, do it well, and really inhabit our roles to make the world a better place.”

Fiona rounded off the lecture by citing examples of past crises solved by engineering, such as the London Underground which eased overcrowding, and challenged today’s engineers to lead by example. She also called for greater collaboration within the industry, noting that we can only get the most out of our industry’s collective knowledge by sharing it as widely as possible and avoiding siloes. 

Nick Mead, President of CIBSE, said: “This year’s Annual Lecture was an inspirational shot in the arm for the industry, which reminds us of the potential we have as professionals if we only grasp the opportunity that is there before us. CIBSE members are some of the best in the world at what we do, and we have the collective knowledge between us to really make an impact, and even save the world.

“I would like to thank Fiona Cousins for her thought provoking and challenging talk, and I hope that we can build on what she has said and challenge ourselves and others to champion the highest standards in everything we do.”

The CIBSE annual lecture was held in front of a full house on the night of the 16th of March at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The topic of this year’s lecture was ‘How building services engineers can save civilization’, and it was delivered by Fiona Cousins of Arup New York.