Civil engineers have been providing infrastructure to societies since the beginning of civilization. Although the word “civil” appears in contrast to “military” engineers, the term “civil engineering” honours the role our profession plays in society.
A lot is changing in this society at the beginning of the 21st century.
Various Global Challenges In The Construction Industry
The world is going through a series of disruptive Global challenges, which together with the economic crisis create a significant imbalance. The future will not be an extrapolation of the present, but in many ways “a grand change“.
The important disruptive grand transformations are as follows:
1. Demography and Ageing
Demography is a first-rate driving force for an economic boom and social development. In Asia and Europe, more developed economies are experiencing ageing or ageing societies, while younger economies are experiencing rapid changes in the age structures of their populations.
In 2019, the total world population reached 7.7 billion; However, United Nations (UN) estimates predict slower growth with estimates of 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion in 2100.
The continued increase in the population aged 65 and over has led to an increasingly old-age dependency ratio in East Asia and Southeast Asia as a whole.
The Republic of Korea has entered the aged society category (a society in which more than 14% of the population is 65 or over), while Japan has progressed to becoming a super-aged society (a society in which more than 21% population is 65 years or older).
2. Abundance and Automation
Technological innovation and the application of automation will boost overall productivity across sectors, leading to increased GDP growth. The increased efficiency, automation and robotics of manufacturing processes are enabling the industry to produce more and more with less and less work. The markets are full of products that consumers seldom need, especially consumers of wealthy companies who have money to spend.
While development is possible the old fashioned way in developing economies and poorer regions of developed countries, the challenge of developed societies is how to make up for the new needs. Changing those needs from physical to symbolic is a great challenge for society as a whole. This will not only develop new home industries but can also help save the planet.
3. Globalisation of Technology
The globalisation of technology is a major factor in lifting billions of people out of poverty. The BRICS nations (Brazil, India, Russia, China) and other global economic, technological, scientific, political and military power are the changes of the tide.
By 2022, the EU will no longer be the world’s #1 economy, but #3. It has fallen from about a quarter of the global GDP to less than a fifth.
Increased prosperity around the world is a good thing. This means billions more people will be lifted out of poverty. It also means that there will be many more needs like ours. That means a big market like ours for the products and services we already provide.
But it also means more competition. And not only competition to BRICS Nations workers, but also the competition for the innovator, engineer, scientist and scholar.
4. Climate Change and Natural Resources
Climate change will affect basic elements of life for people around the world such as access to water, food production, health and the environment. As the world warms, millions of people may suffer from hunger, water scarcity and coastal flooding.
If no action is taken to reduce emissions, concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could reach double their pre-industrial levels by early 2035, virtually giving us more than a 2°C increase in global average temperature which is very harmful to living.
Current levels of the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are almost double the equivalent of 430 parts per million (ppm) of CO2, compared to only 280ppm before the Industrial Revolution. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will double to pre-industrial levels by 2050.
Without energy, the standard of living cannot be maintained and the developing world cannot be deprived of the same standard that we have in the form of Natural Resources.
Price instability of fossil fuels and concentration of supply depends on the resources available in our Nature.
The world simply has to find a way to achieve the same quality of life using less energy and find a way to make almost all its energy from renewable resources.
5. Development of Communication Technology
In the past few years, the communication revolution of the Internet that is transforming people, teaching globally, work from home, has also transformed mass media and its impact on social life and democracy. It is the communication between those who make up a family, enabling cooperation in business, science, politics and governance.
Technological and scientific development is taking place rapidly in all fields. Amazing successes are being achieved in the fields of medicine, biotechnology, nanotechnology, genetics and other new sciences. But apart from information and communication technology, no other field has such a wide impact on all walks of life. Any person is a few mouse clicks away. Everyone is just a few clicks away.