Sustainability Grand Tour Series

The Sustainability Grand Tour explored the role of engineers in developing more sustainable cities and communities, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. With speakers from all over Ireland and internationally presenting case study examples of leading sustainability engineering projects, the webinar series aimed to demonstrate how engineers can integrate sustainability concepts into their projects at all stages from design to end-of-life.

The free-to-attend weekly webinar series ran from January to May 2021 and was a collaboration between 10 sectors of Engineers Ireland: West, South East, Cork, Northern, Midlands, GB and North East Regions, the Energy, Environment and Climate Action Division and the Roads and Transportation and Academic Societies. The 19 webinars provided 16 hours of free CPD for Engineers Ireland members and others with an interest in sustainability.

The Sustainability Grand Tour brought together thousands of Engineers Ireland members to explore the role of engineers in developing sustainable cities and communities. Webinars covered a diverse range of topics such as transport, construction, housing, energy efficiency, UN SDGs, education, manufacturing, sustainable energy, and biodiversity. The closing event of the Sustainability Grand Tour reflected on what we learned along the way with a focus on lessons for public policy.  

The Sustainability Grand Tour contributed to implementation of Engineers Ireland’s declaration of a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency and the Engineers Ireland Sustainability Framework.

Topics covered

Transport and mobility

The first event in the series focused on optimising sustainability through the reallocation of road space for pedestrians and cyclists during 2020. The initiative is hoped to encourage sustainable modes, both during and post-Covid restrictions, and to ensure meaningful investment of the €360m pledged per year for walking and cycling projects, in a sustainable manner, while encouraging small to medium sized investment projects to be undertaken nationally, to aid recovery.

In Part 1, Rory Collins and Ben Errity (Barry Transportation) presented on the reallocation schemes carried out in Blackrock, Dundrum and Dalkey Villages in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, and discussed the design process and construction details that were used. Sean McGrath (DLRCC) outlined guidance, lessons learned and experience of delivery from the local authority perspective.  Watch webinar recording.

Part 2 of ‘optimising sustainability through the reallocation of road space’, highlighted recent projects rolled out in Kildare in 2020 to provide a better environment for pedestrians, and cyclists. Speaker Sharon O’Gara (Kildare County Council) presented on a number of schemes undertaken as part of the covid-19 tactical response in urban areas in Kildare. Watch webinar recording.  

The South East Greenway will be a state-of-the-art cycling and walking route and is a joint initiative of Wexford County Council, Kilkenny County Council and Waterford City & County Council, supported by the local Partnership organisations. This webinar provided a brief overview of the design and construction of the 24km greenway from Abbey Road, north of Waterford City North Quays to the town of New Ross.

Seán Breen, a Chartered Engineer with over 15 years’ experience delivering civil and structural projects in the Ireland and the UK, presented the design challenges of providing a new public amenity on a disused rail corridor which includes restoring protected structures such as the Red Bridge in New Ross, provision of new car parking infrastructure, and accommodation works for landowners. Watch webinar recording.

Housing

The Sustainability Grand Tour aimed to provide an opportunity to explore the role of engineers in developing more sustainable cities and communities. Housing is at the core of cities and communities and these talks considered the factors that make housing sustainable and how these can be incorporated into efforts to address Ireland's housing crisis. 

In order to achieve significant emission reductions from our built environment, our housing stocks need to be highly energy efficient and largely decarbonised by 2050. In transitioning our homes to low carbon, Brian Montayne (Senior Manager, ESB Strategy, Innovation & Transformation) discussed the drivers, policy levers and energy technologies. Watch webinar recording.  

The second event in this section examined sustainable housing through the delivery of affordable and fully-integrated housing. In this session, the West region was joined by Hugh Brennan, CEO of Ó Cualann Housing and Orla Hegarty, Assistant Professor at the UCD School of Architecture. Watch webinar recording.

The third event explored a digitised solution to low carbon modular homes for the Irish housing crisis and their delivery through Interreg Housing 4.0 Energy. John Carley, Chairman of 3cea and Fellow of Engineers Ireland, presented the 3 Counties Energy Agency’s Regional Energy Transition Strategy to 2030. Alex Hamilton, Senior Energy Engineer and Ralf Kampe, H4.0E Project Lead, 3cea, provided an introduction to low carbon and innovative H4.0 technologies and materials. Sean Savage, Wexford County Council, spoke about Housing 4.0 Energy pilot projects from Carlow, Wexford & Kilkenny County Councils - The Challenge and Ambition. Watch webinar recording.

Sustainable Development Goals

4 March each year is World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, a UNESCO international day to highlight the achievements of engineers and engineering in our modern world and improve public understanding of how engineering and technology is central to modern life and sustainable development. The Sustainability Grand Tour marked World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development with a panel discussion on the contribution of engineering to climate action at home and abroad. Speakers included Brian Leddin TD (Chair of Oireachtas Climate Committee), Emma Brown (Engineers Without Borders) and representatives of Engineers Ireland. Watch webinare recording

In the second event in this section, Dr. Cara Augustenborg explored how engineers can integrate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in order to develop more sustainable cities and communities. Dr. Augustenborg is a Fellow in Environmental Policy at University College Dublin, Presenter of the Down To Earth series on Newstalk FM, and an honourary member of President Michael D. Higgins’ Council of State. In 2020, she was named the ‘Woman of Influence’ at the Irish Women’s Awards and Newstalk FM hails her as ‘the media authority on all things environmental’. Watch webinar recording

There is an increasing expectation within the 3rd level sector for institutions to integrate sustainability into not only their wider operations but also specifically into course delivery. New accreditation criteria from Engineers Ireland, introduced in January 2021, specifically focus on this topic. This webinar presented an overview of these criteria as well as case studies and practices from a range of academic speakers with extensive experience of sustainability on educational campuses. Watch webinar recording

Energy in industry

This section of the Tour explored the use of energy in Irish industry. Energy Efficient Design in Ireland is outlined in I.S. 399. FDT has been involved in the practice of EED since it first started being used in Ireland in the early 2000s. This session looked at I.S. 399 and its practical implementation and the projects in which FDT have used the methodology of I.S. 399 and the key benefits of applying the standard to capital projects. Additionally, changes in the EED approach being debated at the moment will be discussed, outlining how the EED process can be refined and improved. Watch webinar recording

The second event under this theme covered energy usage and efficiency in Irish industry. Denis Dineen from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland discussed energy usage statistics in Ireland in recent years and the role of sustainable energy source in powering Ireland's future. Alan Heneghan from Thermo King then outlined their ADVANCER project, which was selected as the winner of the 2020 'Engineering Innovation and Sustainability' category at the Engineering Excellence Awards, along with the overall Engineering Endeavour of 2020. ADVANCER was developed in Thermo King Galway and its architecture enables paradigm shifting reductions in fuel consumption of >30% and CO2 emissions of >50%. Watch webinar recording.  

The third session examined the future of construction product certification and innovation for a sustainable future from a construction materials producers perspective. Dr William Wilson and Colin Doyle of Roadstone presented on the development and certification of EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations), the role of construction products with schemes such as LEED and BREAM, and certification and Innovative solutions to SUDs systems and Part L of the Building Regs. They also covered the use of recycled aggregates in asphalt and concrete products, further research initiatives, and an overview of SuDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems) products and projects. Watch webinar recording.

Energy in communities

Under this theme, three webinars covered different aspects of energy in the community. In 2019, when it was announced that peat power generation would wind down in the Midlands in 2020, it became a national talking point. The impacts on the wider communities built on decades of sustained economic activity in the region provided by peat harvesting and power generation are far reaching. While these impacts pose challenges for the region, there is also the possibility of a Just Transition to a sustainable future, but this path forward is not yet clearly defined. FDT Consulting Engineers and Project Managers Ltd. received funding from DCCAE to undertake a Technology Cluster Study for the Lough Ree region as part of Just Transition.

This discussion provided the background and context to the technology cluster study, the progress to date and the ideas being considered for detailed technical and economic analysis. In addition, there were examples on how the study involves collaboration with key stakeholders in the region. It described how studies of this nature can help engineering firms develop in-house capacity and develop a programme of CPD underpinned by a co-ordinated research effort that fosters a collaborative approach within the company working on themes that can be for the betterment of society. Watch webinar recording.

The second webinar in this section introduced the concept of the Sustainable Energy Communities programme from a County Mentors perspective, outlining the journey a typical community can undertake to support a low carbon development within their locality. The speaker was Laurence O’Reilly, an Energy Consultant with ORS and a Midlands-based County Mentor on the Sustainable Energy Communities programme for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

The Sustainable Energy Communities programme was designed and is implemented by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Utilising a Bottom-Up approach, the SEC programme empowers communities all throughout Ireland to lead the way in their unique journey of decarbonising energy use. This webinar will introduce the concept of the programme from a County Mentors perspective, outlining the journey a typical community can undertake to support a low carbon development within their locality. A key component of this journey is an Energy Master Plan, our speaker will introduce this study, its link with the SEC, what it entails and how it can provide a tangible roadmap for communities in raising energy awareness and implementing technical interventions to realise a zero-carbon future in energy use. Watch webinar recording.

The third webinar hosted Prof Mark Gillan, COO Artemis Technologies and BMC SIP Programme Director, on the Race to Zero Emissions in the Maritime Sector. Belfast Maritime Consortium (BMC) Partners, led by Artemis Technologies, was formed to develop transformative zero emissions commercial vessels. This £53m programme recently secured £33m UKRI Strength in Places funding.

Utilising Belfast's advanced manufacturing clusters, the BMC, working with the local supply chain, will produce the world's first autonomously controlled 'fully submerged' electric hydrofoiling vessel, and develop the technical and operational requirements for a maritime Transport System of the Future.

The Artemis Technologies eFoilerTM Propulsion-System, which combines ultra high power density electric propulsion & regeneration from F1, with autonomously controlled carbon fibre hydrofoils from the America's Cup, will provide the first solution for the early adoption of high-speed zero-emissions maritime transport. This truly transformative and complex technology will reduce the drag of a conventional fast ferry or traditional passive 'V' hydrofoil, by up to 90%, uniquely making electric propulsion, with high-speed and range, commercially viable. This technology, combined with Artemis's high-performance sporting heritage, incessant desire to innovate, and significant financial investment, will reinvigorate Belfast's historic maritime leadership in world-class shipbuilding. On completion of the 41-month programme, Belfast will possess a world class maritime capability, delivering high-value transformative products for use in the UK and abroad. Watch webinar recording

Sustainable living and protecting biodiversity

A webinar was held on the topic of sustainable living through sustainable heating and transportation. Anthony Walsh, Manager Future Network Development in ESBN Asset Management, discussed the development of the distribution network for the electrification of heat and transport, including the reinforcement of the distribution network for coping with EVs and HPs, touching on new transformer designs in the North East region. Eamon Dillane then discussed his own 4kW Peak Solar PV installation with its merits. He detailed his journey to date from a 2015 24kwhr Nissan Leaf to a New 64 Kwhr Hyundai Kona in 2019 and onto his current car the 2015 90Kwhr Tesla Model S. He outlined the limits for homeowners’ microgeneration at 6kW Max, with future network concerns over-voltage rise, harmonics and transformer capacities to accept Solar export back onto the HT network from clusters of houses in estates for example with solar PV. Watch webinar recording

The second webinar under this theme was the culmination of a cross-sectoral initiative called ‘Protecting Biodiversity – The Role of Engineers’. The initiative is intended to build capacity on biodiversity within Engineers Ireland and to foster collaboration between Engineers Ireland and biodiversity experts and organisations. It is hoped that this initiative can provide a useful starting point for Engineers Ireland’s work in the area of biodiversity, in line with their declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency in March 2020. As part of this initiative, a consultation process was conducted and the Protecting Biodiversity, the role of engineers: Issues paper was published. This paper outlines key issues, challenges, case studies and recommendations to enhance the role of engineers in protecting biodiversity. You can read the issues paper here. The speakers at the event were Will Woodrow, CIEEM VP for Ireland, and Laurence Lett, Executive Engineer with Wexford County Council. Watch webinar recording

Policy and legislation

The Climate Action Plan 2019 is Ireland's all of Government Plan to tackle climate break down and achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. By 2030, the Plan aims for 70% of all electricity generated to be from renewable sources, for 500,000 existing homes to be upgraded to B2 BER and the planting of 8,000 hectares new forest per year, along with almost 200 other targets. Brian Leddin is TD for Limerick City, Green Party spokesperson on Climate Action and The Environment, and Chair of the Green Party in the Oireachtas. Before being elected to the Dáil, he worked as a mechanical engineer in Limerick and was a councillor on Limerick City and County Council. In this webinar, Deputy Leddin discussed the Climate Action Plan 2019, the Irish Government's approach to climate action and sustainability, along with its implementation over the coming years. Watch webinar recording

We are in a climate and biodiversity emergency. Irish public policy targets 70% renewable electricity and a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 on the path to carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve these ambitious targets, the Government has launched a consultation on the next Climate Action Plan while Eirgrid is seeking views on Shaping Our Electricity Future. This closing event of the Sustainability Grand Tour reflected on what we’ve learned from the series with a particular focus on lessons for public policy. Minister Eamon Ryan and Liam Ryan, EirGrid Chief Innovation and Planning Officer, addressed the consultations and the role that engineers can play. Siobhán Kennedy of the West Region also provided a roundup of the Sustainability Grand Tour. Watch webinar recording.

Recordings

All webinar recordings are available below. Don't forget to record any video viewings as part of your CPD activities.

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Conclusion

Engineers are problem solvers and climate change and biodiversity loss are the biggest problems we face as a society. The case studies highlighted in the Sustainability Grand Tour help to bring sustainability to life, demonstrating the practical engineering solutions that have been deployed in a variety of sectors. Engineering skills and resources, like those highlighted in the webinars, will be needed now and into the long-term.

Engineers Ireland has been building momentum in action on sustainability, from the Declaration of a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency to the publication of the Sustainability Framework to this Sustainability Grand Tour. The interdisciplinary, collaborative aspect of the Tour has been a major success, further collaboration will be vital for action on climate change and biodiversity loss.