July 2008 Volume 33, Number 7
Vision 2025–Making It a Reality
ASCE took a bold step toward the future in June of last year when we published the report The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025. The world view expounded in that report emerged from an asce-organized gathering of about 60 thoughtful leaders with a wide variety of backgrounds and at different levels in their careers. The group included civil engineers, engineers from other disciplines, architects, educators, association executives, and other leaders. Eight countries aside from the United States were represented. The report has now been widely disseminated among members of the global civil engineering community.
The participants imagined the global environment in 2025—the world in which the civil engineer will be working—and addressed the role of civil engineers in that world. They then sought to define the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that civil engineers practicing at that time will need to possess. Vision 2025 puts it this way:
“Entrusted by society to create a sustainable world and enhance the global quality of life, civil engineers serve competently, collaboratively, and ethically as master:
- planners, designers, constructors, and operators of society’s economic and social engine: the built environment;
- stewards of the natural environment and its resources;
- innovators and integrators of ideas and technology across the public, private, and academic sectors;
- managers of risk and uncertainty caused by natural events, accidents, and other threats; and
- leaders in discussions and decisions shaping public environmental and infrastructure policy.”
The task committee asce has established to help realize this vision has begun to develop a road map for achieving the five components listed above, which represent “outcomes” that should be in place by the year 2025 in the social and civil engineering environment. Each of the outcomes will include steps to be taken—now being defined—that are meant to be achievable within the realm of the civil engineering profession.
While we draw up the road map to achieve our vision, asce already has a number of initiatives under way that dovetail with Vision 2025. For example, the Board of Direction has approved a plan for sustainable development that reinforces the need for civil engineers to be stewards of the natural environment and its resources. asce is committed to sustainable development on a wide scale, and our affiliation with Engineers Without Borders–USA helps to promote sustainability at the community level. Our Society partners with this nonprofit humanitarian organization to help people in the developing world improve their standard of living through projects carried out in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.
A related effort is the international program on engineering adaptations to climate change. This initiative will form part of our annual conference this year, which will be held in November in Pittsburgh. Climate change is beginning to have consequences for the water environment and for urbanized areas in coastal regions. While the scientific underpinnings of climate change continue to be the subject of debate, our profession must carefully monitor and develop an understanding of the trends we are seeing. Our program will explore the effects of climate change and discuss how asce must prepare itself so that it can respond in the most effective way. I urge you to attend the session at the annual conference that will be devoted to this program.
Another of our priorities in connection with Vision 2025 is defining the role of the civil engineer in a world characterized by, among other trends, the offshoring of work, the larger roles played by technicians and software, and a perceived commoditization of services. Civil engineers need to become master integrators and leaders so that they can orchestrate and draw upon the efforts of specialists in a broad variety of disciplines. asce’s vision for the global profession also calls for a more clearly defined organizational structure for engineering teams.
The hourly basis of pricing, competitive bidding for services, and a lack of appreciation for the value provided by civil engineers buttress the idea that civil engineering is becoming more of a commodity and that the profession needs to transform itself. asce is leading the effort to upgrade the minimum educational requirements for licensure in the United States. This effort, which encompasses our “raise the bar” and body of knowledge initiatives, calls for elevating the profession in two ways: first, through formal training, a greater number of academic credits, and greater technical depth and, second, by supplementing technical prowess with expertise in leadership, communication, and management.
Also consistent with Vision 2025 is our call for more leadership and participation on the part of civil engineers in the political and legislative arenas, thereby helping to influence legislation with a bearing on infrastructure and sustainability. asce continues its campaign to raise the grades bestowed in our 2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Among the many successes of our Action Plan for the 110th Congress (www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/actionplan07.cfm) has been the override of the Water Resources Development Act veto; funding guarantees for fiscal year 2009 for the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU); Senate passage of the National Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2007; and House passage of the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act of 2007 and the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007. Our action plan, together with an expanded list of 18 legislative actions we wish to promote, reflects our commitment to strengthening our infrastructure through proactive public policy engagement. The agenda includes the National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2007 and the National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act of 2007. Ultimately, civil engineers must be at the forefront in influencing public policy both to shape a strategic research agenda and to secure adequate funding for carrying it out.
For the civil engineer of 2025, becoming a leader in adapting and integrating new technologies will be of cardinal importance in improving the quality of life and our built environment. The challenge here is formidable, as reflected in common concerns within the profession today. Incorporating systematic risk management techniques into the evaluation of new technologies, approaches, and projects, along with ensuring a more equitable sharing of risk, is an important priority for asce. Assessment of risk is a key engineering function, and engineers must assess and communicate clearly to decision makers and the public how the trade-offs of risk, costs, and benefits will affect performance and safety.
ASCE’s initiatives are moving us toward our vision for 2025. As we work to achieve our vision, we as civil engineers will begin to raise the stature of our profession and control our own destinies. To obtain a free hard copy of The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 or to download an electronic copy, visit http://content.asce.org/vision2025/index.html.
—David G. Mongan, P.E., F.ASCE