While we write a lot about a sustainable built environment, we often overlook the contribution of engineers. We recently talked at length with Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems, about the upcoming Future City design competition for aspiring middle-school engineers. Bentley elaborates on the competition’s theme, “Alternative Energy: Fuel Your Future,” and he also forcasts the next evolution of an engineer’s role while turning some long held assumptions on their head. Bentley Systems has been a key developer of CAD and BIM software, and while you may never heard of them, their software is used to design the largest architectural and infrastructure projects around the globe. Read on to see what the future of engineering may look like and how we can inspire the next generation to make a real impact.
Inhabitat: How long has Bentley Systems been a part of Future City?
Greg Bentley: We may be on our eleventh or twelfth year as the prime sponsor of the competition. The competition is part of National Engineer’s Week and Future City has been the prime investment of the National Engineer’s Week program for maybe 17 or 18 years. Carol Rieg, who’s sitting with us here, was the founding Executive Director of the Future City competition. Carol, was Future City always part of the National Engineering’s Awareness Week?
Carol Rieg: Yes. Future City is a program of the National Engineer’s Week Foundation which is a consortium of engineering societies and engineering businesses and government organizations.
Inhabitat: Is the idea of the competition to bring awareness of the role of engineers in society?
Greg Bentley: Yes, and in particular, to this age group, the 12 and 13-year olds. The way I put it is if you don’t entice them to take the advanced math course at that age level they won’t – it won’t be possible curriculum wise for them to wind up an engineer, because they’ll never have the chance again to get the prerequisites to be interested to apply and then to be accepted at an engineering program at a university.
Inhabitat: How does Future City make that link for students between math and their own personal objectives and education?
Greg Bentley: A personal objective to speak about, and it’s one that Inhabitat is contributing to, is a sustainable environment. I put it this way: Of course, in our company we do software at Bentley Systems, we say for sustaining infrastructure and infrastructure sustains our economy. That’s clear, but for our environment, we have to sustain our environment at the same time as our economy. Engineers can do that and take that on. In fact, it’s everyone else who talks about it. It’s actually engineers who accomplish it, and we only can accomplish it if we sustain the engineering professions.
It’s my observation that our next generation does care about improving the world, and so in addition to awareness of what’s math relevant toward, perhaps Future City makes the connection between the environment and the ways in which we improve our environment. That’s our definition of infrastructure at Bentley Systems. It’s everything people do to improve the world.
If you’re in a Future City program or exposed to a Future City program, then you don’t take infrastructure for granted. It’s something that’s exogenous and is presented to you, but when you turn the tap on or whatever, you start to think about how is that done, and who’s done it and gosh it’s interesting that it works, and how could it work better. Those are some of this ripple effect, I suppose, of awareness that what goes on around us is something that people contribute to and can and should improve.