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Transition Engineering: a systems approach to addressing complex problems



"At its heart, engineering is about using science to find creative, practical solutions." - Queen Elizabeth II


Transition Engineering applies scientific and engineering concepts and workflows to find innovative solutions to energy transition and sustainability challenges


 

In 2021, Dr Rosalie Constable completed the University of Canterbury Energy InTIME© course in Transition Engineering:

Interdisciplinary Transition Innovation, Management and Engineering (InTIME©).

Rosalie is also a member of GATE: the Global Association for Transition Engineering.

 

Addressing Wicked Problems


The challenge of rapidly and effectively transitioning to a low-carbon economy is a "wicked problem" - a complex problem with no clear or easy solution.

This is because the current solutions often work well and satisfy essential needs of our society.

But where the current systems are unsustainable, sooner or later they will exceed resource constraints and these unsustainable systems will break down.


Transition Engineering provides an interdisciplinary approach to finding innovative, practical solutions to bring about the changes needed for a more resilient and sustainable future.


 

An integrated systems approach


Our world is an interconnected system, therefore an integrated systems approach is needed to address energy transition challenges.

The InTIME© workflow is applied in three key stages:

1. Understand the System:

  • define the boundaries of the system

  • how is the system working now?

  • how did the system work in the past?

2. Innovation:

  • scenario analysis - what solutions are available?

  • how do certain scenarios impact future energy and materials use?

  • what will the future be like?

3. Engineering:

  • what needs to happen to achieve this future state?

  • what is the trigger for this change?

  • define and implement the "shift project" to effect change


The objectives of any "shift project" are to achieve:

  • ​Reduced energy usage

  • Reduced emissions and waste

  • Reduced materials consumption

  • Positive environmental and social impacts

  • Profitability

  • Long-term resilience and sustainability

 

"The environment and the economy are really both two sides of the same coin. If we cannot sustain the environment, we cannot sustain ourselves."

- Wangari Maathai

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