02:00 PM - 03:30 PM
24 October 2022

CE Ethics: Sustainability & Planned Obsolescence

Professional Development

Many people lament that they just don’t make things like they used to. It often seems that the day after a product’s warranty expires, the product, or one of its parts or functions, fails. But no product can economically be designed and manufactured to work forever. It sure seems that many products are designed for shorter and shorter useful lives. Are the next generation products better for the planet from an operation and maintenance point of view? What does it mean for the economy? For the consumer? Is this sustainable? At the end of its useful life, most products end up in a landfill, becoming a civil engineering issue.

So, planned obsolescence, isn’t this a mechanical or electrical engineering ethical dilemma — or is it bigger than that? The current ASCE Code of Ethics states the ASCE members protect and advance the health, safety and welfare of the public and strive to make sustainable decisions in their professional work. Our products are the built environment. Construction waste takes up a considerable percentage of total solid waste. Do we always propose reuse or renovation if a civil engineered product no longer functions the way we want it to?