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Welcome to ASCE’s Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics, as you will come to understand, is the foundation of the application of the civil engineering profession to the client and the public at large. Civil engineering is technical by nature, often involving complex concepts, evaluation, calculation, and design to implement a project. The other side of civil engineering is our interface with people, including the public, clients, reviewing agencies, and all the other people we impact with our work. This interface is where ethics comes into play.

This presentation of ASCE’s Code of Ethics discusses what a code of ethics is and how it applies to one’s professional and personal life. A series of questions is presented that explores the essence of ethics and how it relates to our lives. The questions are intended to be diverse and to explore many aspects of ethics, but are by no means all inclusive. In fact, they are really just a starting point for your personal journey to understanding and applying ethics to everyday life.

The format of this document starts with the question and answer portion. It is intended for those new to ethics as well as those who have been learning and applying ethics all their lives. The questions are intended to be thought provoking, with purposely short and concise responses. Each of these questions could be the source of extensive discussion. The intent is to expose the reader to the breadth of ethics, the importance of ethics, and to start the process of a serious and in-depth reflection and evaluation of ethics and how it applies to all aspects of life, both private and professional.

Once the reader has the opportunity to explore and understand some basic concepts of ethics, the second part of the document focuses specifically on ASCE’s Code of Ethics. The ASCE Code of Ethics is comprised of fundamental principles and fundamental canons. The third part of the document discusses the application of the fundamental principles and fundamental canons to current engineering practice. This part is made up of the “Guidelines to Practice,” which are more like laws derived from the fundamental principles and fundamental canons. They provide specific examples of how each canon is applied to assist members with implementation of the Code of Ethics and how they form the basis of evaluation for disciplinary action for those who violate the Code of Ethics. Bear in mind that the guidelines are clarifications and discussions of specific issues, and are not in any way intended to be all-inclusive. They are merely implementation of the appropriate interpretation of the fundamental principles and fundamental canons to specific issues. A violation is based on a violation of fundamental principles and fundamental canons, and that is how ASCE will evaluate an infraction and discipline the offender if an ASCE member.

While the fundamental principles and fundamental canons will likely change little, the guidelines are the living portion of the Code of Ethics. They will adjust to the changes in the profession and society as a whole and provide clarification of the application of the Code of Ethics.


This guide was written and compiled by Mr. Eric L.
Flavell, P.E., F.ASCE as a gift to the Society and the
profession so that we can continue to earn the public’s
trust as we work to improve our quality of life. Help and
support were provided by the Committee on Professional
Practice, the Committee on Business Practices, and a
Blue Ribbon Panel to review the relevancy, content, and
quality of this document.

ASCE Committee on Business Practices
of the Committee on Professional Practice 

Charles D. Anderson, P.E., M.ASCE, Chair, 2011
Michael F. Garrett, P.E., M.ASCE, Chair 2008-2009
Eric L. Flavell, P.E., F.ASCE, Chair 2006-2007
Gregg E. Brandow, Ph.D., P.E., S.E., M.ASCE
Andrew V. Brozyna, P.E.
Melissa M. Carter, P.E., M.ASCE
Fran Eide, P.E., M.ASCE
Scott M. Rosemann, P.E., M.ASCE

Blue Ribbon Panel 

Rachelle Hollander, Ph.D.
Paul Munger, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE
Bob Nichols, P.E., F.ASCE