Building on the achievements of 2011, the American Society of Civil Engineers is moving forward from a position of strength. Despite the slow pace of the nation’s economic recovery, we made solid progress in our mission to advance the civil engineering profession through our three primary strategic initiatives: infrastructure, sustainability, and Raising the Bar for professional qualifications.
In 2011, we saw an increase in the number of civil engineers engaging with their lawmakers during our annual Legislative Fly-In on Capitol Hill and of members back home supporting those efforts by contacting elected officials throughout the year. Bolstering their outreach was ASCE’s release of two groundbreaking economic studies. Issued in July, Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure reports that the nation’s deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure will cost the American economy more than 870,000 jobs and suppress the country’s Gross Domestic Product by $897 billion by 2020. Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater, released in December, found that by 2020, the gap between what is being spent on water infrastructure and what is needed to meet the nation’s needs will reach $84 billion. ASCE reinforced the importance of both studies’ results through briefings to Members of Congress and to the public through national media coverage. The President of the United States even referred to the Report Card in his State of the Union address. In 2012, ASCE will continue to call attention to the country’s Failure to Act with two new studies on energy distribution and ports (airports and seaports).
Tomorrow’s engineers will need to master an expanded body of knowledge to prepare them for the increased complexities, responsibilities and challenges of creating and maintaining infrastructure that meets the future needs of society and protects the public health, safety, and welfare. To ensure that future professionals are equipped to meet those challenges, ASCE strongly supports efforts to Raise the Bar for minimum educational standards needed for professional licensure. To enhance understanding of the issue by our members and other interested stakeholders, ASCE supported the production of a video in which notable engineers from various disciplines and sectors share compelling perspectives on why the Raise the Bar initiative is needed. The video is the centerpiece of a new website, RaisetheBarForEngineering.org, which will more effectively spread the message and build support.
In 2011, ASCE also achieved major advances on another key initiative – sustainability. Early in the year, the Society, in partnership with the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), launched the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI). By summer, ISI had launched a draft version of an all-new rating system, known as envision™, which rates the sustainability level achieved by infrastructure projects. We expanded the resources on our own website with a new sustainability section where visitors can contribute to and access a library of project profiles that demonstrate how social, environmental and economic concerns were successfully integrated into infrastructure projects. We’re also making ASCE’s national headquarters in Reston, Va., more sustainable. The ASCE Foundation, owner of the headquarters building, has been implementing changes in pursuit of LEED-EB (Existing Buildings) Gold certification, which we anticipate receiving later in 2012. We’re sharing what we’re learning along the way in a new blog, LEEDing the Way, providing advice to other operators of long-established office buildings who may be pursuing sustainability renovations of their own. To give members and other civil engineers the tools to integrate sustainability into their daily practice, we created a new online course, Fundamentals of Sustainable Engineering, and piloted a half-day workshop in three cities.
Throughout its history, ASCE has responded to catastrophic events by contributing technical expertise and resources to both respond to – and learn from – the performance of engineered systems subjected to extreme forces. Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March, three ASCE Institutes mobilized and deployed a total of five teams to gather data that could be used to improve the performance of structures that might be subjected to similar disasters in the future. With a tsunami structural design provision already in the works for the next revision of the ASCE 7 standard (Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures), the data gathered in Japan will allow the authors to validate the proposed standard using real-world conditions, advancing the state of the practice. Although the magnitude of damage was profound and the loss of life tragic, the lessons learned could save many lives in the future. Japan is but one of several disasters ASCE-sponsored teams studied firsthand in 2011; others include the earthquake in New Zealand and the tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri.
As prudent financial stewards, we invested in strategic programs that deliver value, we controlled expenses and we managed our investments carefully, allowing us to continue our work to advance the profession and provide our members high quality technical, educational and professional resources in spite of the challenging national economy. Our achievements in 2011 have positioned us well for even greater advances in our strategic initiatives. Thank you for your roles as ASCE members, volunteer partners and as civil engineering professionals in making these successes happen.
Kathy Caldwell, P.E., F.ASCE Patrick J. Natale, P.E., F.ASCE
2011 President Executive Director