A Young Engineer’s Thoughts on the Inaugural World Engineers Summit (Day 2 and 3)
This article is contributed by Desmond Low, an environmental engineering student at the Nanyang Technological University.
Day 2 and 3
The next two days of WES 2013 saw the speakers sharing several interesting concepts and raising awareness on how we can contribute to sustainable development.
Concepts like energy trilemma, NIMBY and SIMBY, and smart engineering were introduced. Firstly, the energy trilemma, which relates to energy usage, consists of three main components. They are economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability and energy security. This translates to balancing trade-offs on affordability, carbon emissions and securing energy resources.
Secondly, the ‘not in my backyard and start in my backyard’ concept reminds us on how everyone can contribute to the environment by applying ‘simple engineering’ in our everyday life. NIMBY is the encouragement of existing residents to fight for their rights when new and harmful installations are placed in a close proximity to their houses. These installations tend to damage the environment and cause health problems to the existing residents in the area, for example, incinerators and toxic waste dumps. SIMBY is the encouragement of the people to apply simple methods in their households to achieve self-sustainability, for example, growing edible crops at the windows and using their leaves to provide shade from the afternoon sun.
Smart engineering emphasises on the efficiency and the testing of assumptions. This concept amplifies the need for efficiency and timeliness in engineers when working on projects. Also, instead of assuming that certain ideas are not viable, this concept challenges us to run through all possible scenarios before making a decision because the conventional methods may not be the best. In addition, we must always challenge the accuracy of external data sources because the quality of data is crucial in professional engineering.
One of the most interesting presentations was given by the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the National Environment Agency (NEA), Mr Joseph Hui. His presentation was on the integrated monitoring system, which demonstrates the commitment of Singapore in being a ‘Green City’. The efforts and technology implemented by NEA include buoy-based water quality sensors, in-situ noise measuring equipment, cameras, smart bins, smartphone applications, mechanical sweepers and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
All these monitoring systems give NEA the ability to capture real-time coastal and inland water and air quality, construction sites noise measurements, hawker centre and road cleaning activities, high rise littering and even mosquito breeding grounds by the UAV. Citizens can capture unsightly pollution with cameras and send it to NEA through the smartphone application ‘myENV’ and NEA will respond by sending their ‘smart vehicles’ to clear up the scene. This application also gives citizens access to the latest updates on air quality in Singapore.
Areas still undergoing research are the E-Nose which allows NEA to capture odours and the self-activated noise camera which captures noisy vehicles that blast through the traffic after midnight, especially motorcycles. All these come together as an integrated system to help NEA improve the quality of the living environment in Singapore.
With all the exchange of ideas and comments during the panel discussions and the networking sessions, WES 2013 definitely achieved its objective of gathering engineers from different fields to explore and share innovative and sustainable solutions to climate change.