It is the responsibility of structural engineers to make use of materials that are ethical, responsible, and efficient. Within complex systems of financial and political interests, however, it is an obligation often thought infeasible when glancing at our cost-benefit analyses. But what must be understood, and what this study hopes to convey through the chosen structural case studies, is that there are costs greater than capital; costs that have the potential to irreversibly compromise (or strengthen) the livelihood of future generations. This research, by drawing lines between materiality, community, nature, and science, hopes to unveil how these costs can be addressed by establishing, via the built environment, responsible material relationships.
The deliverable of the study will be a report that aims to inspire material consumption that, with innovation, sustainability, and people considered, builds toward a better and more efficient tomorrow. The case-by-case analysis of the selected structures, which is connected to at least one of three core concepts (community impact, environmental sustainability, or engineering innovation) will demonstrate engineering design opportunities that are reverent of the past— via traditional material use—or illustrates ambitions for the future—with the innovative materials of tomorrow. Ultimately, by studying the material ontology of our structures, structural engineers might identify ways to advance engineering scholarship, foster interconnected communities with a collective identity, and implement designs that express local artistic and cultural values.