Sustainability is addressed at many points in the stages of work in any project, and the stage at which it is addressed often affects how well and comprehensively sustainability is incorporated into a project. Usually, sustainability is better worked into a project when it is first addressed as early as possible within the project and then re-addressed throughout all subsequent stages. The survey supports this view, showing that sustainability is most commonly addressed in the conceptual design phase, according to 76% of practicing respondents. Also, 50% address sustainability during materials selection, 44% during process selection and 21% during reporting. Some engineers note that approaching sustainability is more straightforward if the design and manufacturing processes are addressed in tandem. Factors that influence the use of sustainable design and practices must be balanced by organizations against other priorities, especially economics and production. In general, most organizations consider sustainable technologies for new products only if they yield some form of economic benefit. More specifically, the balance between sustainable methods and other priorities is achieved by working respondents’ organizations as follows: 34% consider sustainable technologies for new products only if they are cost-saving; 27% invest in sustainable technologies only if they increase throughput and cut costs of existing products/processes; 24% invest in sustainable technologies if they do not affect throughput or cost of existing products; 19% will spend extra to incorporate sustainable technologies in most new products; 15% do not invest in sustainable technologies; 9% invest in sustainable technologies to make a statement with some flagship products but not others.
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Sustainability 2013, 5380 6. Changing Attitudes and Views Given the typical age of engineering students who responded to the survey (20–30) is much lower than that for practicing engineers (40–60), the results of the survey can be somewhat interpreted to show the changes in attitudes and views that are occurring over time. This partly presumes that the views held by senior engineers are somewhat influenced by the views they developed when they were young. In this case, the results in Section 3, which show greater interest in sustainability among engineering students than practicing engineers, suggest that interest in sustainable engineering is increasing over time. Stronger views in support of incorporating sustainability in engineering were sometimes expressed by students, e.g., some commented that they feel sustainability is the most important issue of our time and that it should be at the forefront of engineering. 7. Barriers and Challenges Based on comments made by respondents to the survey, there exist many barriers and challenges to enhancing the way sustainability is utilized by engineers and the extent to which it is incorporated in engineering work. Many of these follow: Economics and cost. Respondents indicated that cost is a major consideration when deciding to
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