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Engineers More Involved in Sustainable Design, Survey Finds

Professional engineers are showing a heightened interest in incorporating energy-saving and other green initiatives into product design projects, according to a joint survey by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and 3D design software company Autodesk.

The 2012 Sustainable Design Trend Watch Survey found 75 percent of professional mechanical engineers work for companies involved or extremely involved in sustainability, up from about 66 percent last year. The survey, which drew responses from 4,500 engineering practitioners and 1,900 engineering students, includes results from the past four years.

Cost continues to be a chief concern and a driver of decisions on whether to incorporate sustainable design practices in products, according to the survey.

About 27 percent of respondents said the organizations they work for invest in sustainable design practices only if they increase throughput and cut costs of existing products. About 28 percent said their companies consider sustainable design practices for new products only if they are cost saving, while more than one-quarter of respondents said their organization will spend extra to incorporate sustainable design products in most new products.

The survey revealed most organizations focus on products and systems that reduce energy use and emissions.

More than 55 percent of respondents said they worked on designs that use less energy or reduce emissions in the past year. About 54 percent said they worked on designs to comply with environmental standards and regulations.

The majority of respondents said designs that use less energy or reduce emissions, followed by manufacturing processes that produce less pollution, are the two most important sustainable projects.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass spoke earlier this year about the future of sustainable design and noted some of the most interesting developments were in buildings and infrastructure. Consumer products companies, like Nike, have also taken a keen interest in sustainability. However the manufacturing industry remains divided, he said at the time.

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