Developing a framework for the sustainability assessment of eco-engineering measures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Accepted/In press

View graph of relations

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Engineering
StateAccepted/In press - 5 Oct 2017

Abstract

The assessment of the sustainability impacts of eco-engineering strategies can be challenging and remains neglected within the literature and in practice. The challenge lies in achieving a balance between the delivery of project objectives and their alignment with the emerging principles of sustainable design which seek to provide an appropriate and satisfactory environmental and financial performance whilst delivering social benefits. Whilst it is possible to assess various aspects of the long term performance of soil bioengineering measures and the relevant projects in their delivery through cost evaluations, risk assessments and environmental impact assessments, there is currently no agreed means of assessing the sustainability performance of such measures in an integrated framework which captures the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability.

To remediate this, we propose an integrated sustainability assessment framework which can be applied on any eco-engineering project. It is underpinned by a review of current sustainability indicators commonly applied in the range of sustainability assessment methods (SAMs) and best practice guidance within construction and geotechnical engineering. The framework comprises a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) reflective of the both engineering and sustainability requirements for eco-engineering in the context of stability, active use of vegetation and long-term sustainability for eco-engineering projects. Recognition is provided of the unique nature of each eco-engineering measure and provision is established within the framework for a contextual KPI subset to be developed through stakeholder engagement.

The potential of the framework was explored through an expert workshop highlighting its value to promote benchmarking across the sector between eco-engineering projects and would allow standards to emerge for establishing best practice. Through a real-life case study, we demonstrate the benefits of the adoption of such a framework at an early stage of a project but also the benefits for stakeholders which stem from double-loop learning.

Keywords

  • sustainability, sustainability assessment methods, eco-engineering, eco-technology, bio-engineering, key performance indicators, resilience