What does the future hold for civil engineering? How does the profession fit in with the major issues of our century? Claude Le Quéré, Director of Civil Engineering at Egis and President of the French Civil Engineering Association, shares her vision of the engineering profession and its future.
For several years now, engineering has not seemed to appeal to young people because it is too demanding and not sufficiently valued by society. Construction is no longer attractive because it seems to clash with the new generations' search for meaning.
However, the meaning of action is now at the heart of all our discussions: it's about not oversimplifying the issues and promoting solutions whose effectiveness and impact are equal to the challenges.
I am convinced that we must continue to build in order to serve the general interest. Giving up on building would also mean giving up on correcting territorial inequalities, giving up on transforming our cities for new uses, giving up on improving the efficiency or durability of our facilities, giving up on providing everyone with minimum access to water, energy, housing, health, work, culture and education.
Of course, everyone has the right, and even the duty, to question this notion of the common good, to be concerned about the effectiveness - in terms of the climate challenge - of political processes in delivering projects of public benefit. In this way, everyone can individually question the validity of the projects in which they are involved, as well as the path chosen by their company.
But projects that are in the public interest need to be built better, or even differently, while respecting financial constraints. This is where engineering comes in. Engineering is about finding the best solutions to complex problems. In construction, this means reconciling sobriety, sustainability, adaptability, minimising impact and total cost to society. In a complex environment, it is up to engineers to objectify constraints, integrate and synthesise multiple phenomena, propose a rational, incremental and collective approach to a design that effectively meets needs, and plan a project to bring it to a successful conclusion within ever tighter budgetary constraints.