Engineers have a key role to play in climate action. They must both limit global warming and adapt to its consequences.
We have to adapt the design standards to the new realities by taking into account many elements. For example, it rains more often, it’s warmer, and the permafrost will melt.
Martin Thibault, Vice President, Transportation at Stantec
The firm is tackling the problem in four main areas: energy transition, smart cities, coastal resilience and ecosystem restoration.
A sign of the times, engineering offices now include biologists and landscape architects in their teams. This multidisciplinarity is essential “to better understand the issues,” according to Bernard Bigras, President and CEO of the Association of Consulting Engineering Firms of Quebec (AFG-Quebec).
The latter adds that engineers can now offer “innovative solutions that reduce greenhouse gases by integrating living materials in particular – as is the case on Papineau Avenue in Montreal, with its plants that manage stormwater – and green technologies. »
However, this fight will not be won alone. “Clients must set objectives and incorporate clear principles of sustainable development into their calls for proposals,” recalls Bernard Bigras.
After committing to intervene, the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ) intends to include obligations in terms of sustainable development in the profession’s code of ethics. “We are waiting for this to be approved by the various government authorities,” specifies President Kathy Baig, who points out that a good number of engineers want the OIQ to take a position on the question.
Towards the energy transition
“For everything related to the electrification of transportation, Quebec wants, and could, have a key role in reducing climate change,” says Kathy Baig. We have the raw material, the resources to get there. Quebec companies are also trying to exploit it in a green way. »
To reduce our carbon footprint in the transportation sector (which remains the main emitter of greenhouse gases in Quebec), the solution will have to be global. “Urban planning, the optimization of public transport, the use of renewable energies to manufacture and charge batteries, as well as the recycling of these batteries are part of this,” says engineer Steeve Fiset, partner and head of the strategic direction at CIMA+.
The province is also trying to carve out a place for itself in the wind and solar energy market.
Stantec has several projects in its pipeline to reduce solo car use. In addition to being involved in the extension of the blue metro line, the firm participated in the design of the Réseau express vélo de Montréal. “In 2019, we participated in the pilot project of automated shuttles that traveled from the Maisonneuve market to the Olympic Stadium,” adds Martin Thibault.
Climate action is also arousing passions at CIMA+, which has had a center of excellence in sustainable development for several years. “Champions” are active in each department to publicize innovations and new programs. The firm has also developed a sustainable and responsible engineering guide to be applied in all its sectors of activity.
This translates into projects like that of Audrey Véronneau. The associate partner and project manager, Transportation – Mobility Engineering has been working for about a year with cities under the Financial Assistance Program for the Planning of Sustainable Living Environments.
Cities must take the carbon footprint into account in their planning.
Audrey Véronneau, associate partner and project manager at CIMA+
The objective is to create compact environments that promote the use of active and collective transport.
All of these advances could enable engineers to become agents of change.