Conference on Sustainability in Engineering

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By Anna Vu and Laura Fredrickson

The Conference on Sustainability in Engineering (CSE) was a three-day, national conference that gathered 82 of the top engineering students from across Canada to learn about sustainability and discuss its applicability to their engineering career and everyday life. It was a stage for student leaders to share their passion and ideas of sustainability to like-minded peers and professionals. The inaugural year of this conference took place February 22-25, 2019 in Prince George, BC and was organized by a handful of students from ENVE / EESA. Moving forward, CSE will be an annual conference for the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students (CFES) and will be hosted by a different member society each year.

As future engineers, it is necessary for us to be knowledgeable of the issues of sustainability, to learn, and collaborate on how it could be solved in order for us to move towards a more sustainable future. The theme for CSE 2019 was the Triple Bottom Line. This theme was chosen for the inaugural CSE as it is the foundation of sustainability and it is critical to understand how to balance environmental, economic, and social components in order to attain a sustainable outcome.

Delegates were exposed to the topic of sustainability through multiple different aspects of the conference. Buying locally was encouraged during our social dinner as our farmers’ market was invited to set up a booth full of local items from a few of their vendors. Delegates were then able to buy items with the market bucks that were provided to them.

Technical tours provided a more hands-on learning experience. One of the options was both the Wood Innovation and Design Center, which was the tallest modern wood building in the world in 2014, and the Wood Innovation Research Lab which was the world’s first industrialized passive house. The other option was the Bioenergy plant at UNBC, which is LEED Platinum certified and reduced UNBC’s energy consumption by 85%.

There were a variety of presentations on topics related to the triple bottom line and sustainability. Some of the sessions included Investing in Sustainability, Public Engagement and Engineers, and Zero Net Energy Tiny Homes. These presentations were given by experts in their fields, including industry professionals and professors. In addition to the presentations, students were given the option to participate in the LEED Green Associates certification course or in a case competition that tasked teams to develop a solution, whether that be an innovation, technology, or best management strategy, on how to sustainably feed 10 billion people by the year 2050.

Over the course of the weekend, there were several keynote speakers. Albert Koehler, a professional engineer involved in the Prince George City Council, spoke about applying the triple bottom line to engineering a sustainable future. Guido Wimmers, chair of the Master of Engineering Program at UNBC, spoke about sustainable buildings. Gordon Feller, founder of Meeting of the Minds (San Francisco), spoke about achieving urban sustainability through connected technologies.

In our initiative to give back, we had small fundraising efforts and were able to raise over $200 for Engineers Without Borders.

This conference was a huge success and has set a high standard for future conferences. A huge thank you to the ENVE program, Engineering at UBC, and all other sponsors for supporting this conference!