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Engineering Society to Thrive

On World Engineering Day, ARKANCE takes a moment to appreciate how this profession began, and where it is being called to innovate next. Engineering is a profession that must be constantly innovative to deal with the challenges we face today on our planet to ensure we are leaving a future that our grandchildren can benefit from.

Engineering goes back to pre-historical times, and in ancient Egypt the first known engineer was Imhotep, the Chancellor to Pharoh Djoser. Imhotep built the first pyramid in Egypt. He was also an architect, a physician, an astronomer, and a statesman, a man with a multidisciplinary education who took a holistic approach to building the infrastructure that benefited the people of Egypt, the richest kingdom on earth in the ancient world.

According to Ancient Engineering Technologies. The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century published in 2012, humans began the pursuit of pure drinking water in Egypt back in the 15th century BC. The earliest documentation of water treatment was found on the inscriptions in Egyptian tombs and several different water treatments were inscribed on tomb walls.  The Nile was the artery that sustained Egyptian life and played a crucial role then as it still does today in the development of Egyptian civilization, industry, and trade.

In modern times, the Naga Hammadi dam was constructed and is of similar dimensions to the pyramids built during Imhotep's reign. At the time this project was running in 2007, French and Egyptian partners, together with Bilfinger Berger of Germany constructed a retaining weir, 340 m long at a cost of USD$ 421M. It was a project deemed vital for the future of Egypt because as in Imhotep’s time, not even a blade of grass grows without water and proper irrigation.

When engineers began this project and arrived to begin a survey of Hammadi, the residents of the area gave them an angry reception. It took a lot of engagement and generous government compensation before farmers warmed to their plans because it meant giving up their sugar plantations and some needed to leave their houses to make way for the weir. This case study demonstrates the huge challenges facing engineers to be able to design, build, and solve problems and sustain communities with water for life. It is a great example of how the community needs to work together with engineers for a win-win solution for everyone.

Today water scarcity is still a huge problem in Egypt. According to an article by the African Union Development Agency, Egypt’s Vision 2030 to “increase water supply across the country has primarily focused on enhancing sustainable energy generation and management and enabling innovation and scientific research towards enhancing water supply and distribution.”  

The use of digital technology to address water scarcity in Egypt aims to support environmental, economic, and social returns on the investment needed to protect the environment, increase productivity, and enhance human health.  According to The Borgen Project, in 2022 Egypt retained a daily freshwater capacity of 800,000 cubic meters in line with 2022 records, and the Egyptian government aspires to achieve 6.4 million cubic meters by 2050. Egypt has some of the most cutting-edge digital technologies to address water scarcity which is even more of an acute problem today than it was two years ago.

Live Science reports that Mexico City is facing severe water shortages and could be just only months away from running out of drinking water in 2024. Roughly 60% of Mexico City's water comes from an underground aquifer which has been overused, causing the land to sink at a rate of about 51 centimeters per year since 1950. To address the problem of long and harsh droughts partly due to changes in the climate and also due to this year’s El Niño climate pattern, engineers will have to dig more wells around the city in parallel with improving wastewater treatment to ensure all residents get enough water. Forbes Mexico says that it is going to cost a lot of money to fix this problem and it is a crisis affecting the lives of 22 million people who have been suffering from moderate to exceptional droughts since the beginning of 2024.

The World Green Building Council's paper Building a Water-Resilient Future is for everyone, everywhere is about collaboration of sectors to design for water circularity to meet sustainable outcomes for the Built Environment. This paper has been developed by WorldGBC in collaboration with a network of 26 Green Building Councils around the world, as well as their partners ARUP, Brightworks Sustainability, CBRE, Foster + Partners, WSP, Kingspan and ARKANCE (formerly VinZero), and a network of over 30 individual experts, many of them are engineers. This position paper is the latest publication from WorldGBC’s global Circularity Accelerator program, which earlier in 2023 released the ‘Circular Built Environment Playbook’. The Playbook outlines how the building and construction sector can implement circular economy and resource efficiency principles throughout the entire lifecycle of a building.

Water is life, we are all dependent upon it, and engineering the water infrastructure that serves the planet’s growing population demonstrates just how important engineers are in our lives. Can you even imagine going without water for just one day to wash a cup, flush the toilet, or prepare food?

Engineers and the role they play make all this possible. We tend to take them for granted. The only way we are going solve this challenge is by collaborating. Engineers play a highly important role in designing, building, and solving these urgent problems. Like Imhotep, we must take a whole systems perspective and engage across disciplines and all of the community to tackle the challenge before us.

Create says that communicating engineering value can transform the profession's future. Engineers need to have their voices heard in making strategic, policy, and operational decisions and they need support because they are often not good at communicating effectively in these environments.

Engineers Australia’s Chief Engineer Jane MacMaster FIEAust CPEng EngExec attended the Climate Smart Engineering conference in 2023, and had this to say

One of the things we lament in this profession is the low profile of engineering relative to other professions, and relative to engineering in other countries, such as Pakistan, India, Canada [and] Germany, and that translates into engineering perspectives not adequately being considered in policy and decision-making at all levels of government and in large organizations

Professor James Trevelyan FIEAUST CPEng

Financial decision makers will follow our lead, provided we can present solutions using language and ideas that they can understand

The engineers of the ancient world naturally integrated seasonal weather patterns and circularity with the natural world. Let's draw on them as a well of inspiration as we consider what it will take to sustain civilization into the future. The role of engineering has not changed much since ancient Egypt and managing water for life is now our highest priority.

Today, let’s celebrate our engineers and support them as they continue tirelessly to improve human productivity and well-being, to live together in harmony with nature in the Built Environment.

Authored by Johanne Gallagher, ARKANCE Strategic Delivery Lead, Sustainability.


For over 20 years the brands under ARKANCE company, have been providing software solutions and professional services to Architectural, Engineering, Construction and Manufacturing industries helping them to understand the role of digitalization for the built environment. Businesses both large and small utilize ARKANCE's dedicated industry experts to help navigate technologies as they emerge, driving efficiency and improving workflows. With a global focus on reducing emissions and increased focus directed towards industry, ARKANCE are now turning their attention to providing the linkages between using technology to digitize, and at the same time leveraging the valuable data insights it brings to build more sustainably. ARKANCE are passionate about helping their customers understand how the technologies they use today can help them to step towards net zero in the future, to build a better world.