An ASCE delegation held meetings with the leaders of engineering groups in the United Kingdom, France, Norway, and Germany to exchange ideas on how the engineering profession can ensure that national infrastructure is properly maintained, that fuller scope is given to the principles of sustainable development, and that engineering students are properly prepared for professional practice. ASCE’s president, Andrew W. Herrmann, P.E., SECB, F.ASCE, right, and Richard A. Coackley, CEng, the president of the United Kingdom’s Institution of Civil Engineers, sign a document endorsing the goals set forth in The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025. Meggan Maughan-Brown
ASCE’s president, Andrew W. Herrmann, P.E., SECB, F.ASCE, its executive director, Patrick J. Natale, P.E., F.ASCE, and its director of international relations and strategic planning, Meggan Maughan-Brown, Aff.M.ASCE, recently concluded an important mission to the United Kingdom, France, Norway, and Germany. The purpose of their trip was to meet with their European counterparts and discuss how civil engineers can develop innovative solutions to global issues in the areas of sustainable development, infrastructure, and professional education.
The trip, which ran from June 3 to June 20, sought to foster discussion of the concepts set forth in the ASCE publication The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 (www.asce.org/Vision2025). Among its goals, this report seeks to ensure that civil engineers in 2025 will be able to effectively operate in the context of globalization, will be adept at applying the principles of sustainable development, and will be properly prepared to meet the complex challenges of the 21st century. Recognizing that engineers are living in an increasingly interconnected world, the presidents, directors, board members, and leaders of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), both in the United Kingdom, and of Ingénieurs et scientifiques de France (IESF), the Norwegian group Teknisk-naturvitenskapelig forening (Tekna, the Norwegian Society of Graduate Technical and Scientific Professionals), and the Verein Deutscher Ingenieure (VDI, the Association of German Engineers) were eager to hear about ASCE’s three strategic initiatives—sustainability, infrastructure, and raising the bar. They shared ideas and information with their ASCE guests about how their countries have been able to meet the challenges of increasing demands for energy, transportation, and more effective water and wastewater management while protecting the environment and developing natural resources.
“I think we all spoke the same language,” says Natale in describing of the tone of the discussions. “We talked about our concerns with infrastructure, interest in sustainability, raising the bar, getting the public’s attention, getting the state legislatures interested in our issues. I think the issues that we are dealing with are similar—not exact, but similar—where engineers and engineering societies in each country are trying to do the right thing for long-term societal benefit.”
“In general, the strategic initiatives that ASCE has are very similar in the other four countries we visited,” adds Herrmann. “They are doing similar things. In some instances we are ahead of them, and in some instances they are ahead of us. In Germany, for example, VDI showed us a website [http://www.vdini-club.de/] with interesting engineering projects and activities for children aged four through twelve, so we are going to have to look at their website and see what we can possibly use in our outreach programs here. On the other hand, the sustainability rating system Envision, which the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure recently developed, was of great interest to the Norwegians, who are interested in developing their own program.”
At the first stop, which was in the United Kingdom, Herrmann, Natale, and Maughan-Brown met with the leaders of the ICE and the IStructE, as well as with local ASCE members. During the meeting with the ICE, the discussions focused on each group’s strategies in the areas of infrastructure, sustainability, and raising the requirements for becoming a professional or chartered engineer. In the area of sustainable development, the ICE emphasized its focus on finding ways to reduce carbon emissions. The visit concluded with a signing by Herrmann and the ICE’s president, Richard A. Coackley, CEng, of a document renewing the agreement of cooperation between the two groups and endorsing The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025. Coackley expressed the ICE’s willingness to work with ASCE and the other societies that have endorsed this publication to better position the civil engineering profession for the future.
“We had an opportunity to discuss strategic issues and found similarities to our sustainability and infrastructure initiatives,” recalls Herrmann. “ICE already has a requirement for their civil engineers to have a master’s degree to become what is called a chartered engineer, while we are still championing the master’s or thirty graduate credits as a qualification before the professional engineer license in our Raise the Bar initiative. There were areas where ICE and ASCE can work together, such as education, publications, and our strategic initiatives.”
One of the highlights of the ICE meeting was an invitation to the ASCE delegation to attend an event marking the formal release of the ICE report State of the Nation: Water, a study similar in approach to ASCE’s Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure, which was released last December. The ICE report examines the wider implications of water resource management and its effects on households, agriculture, industry, and the environment. Like the ASCE study, the ICE report presents the specter of water shortages if urgent action is not taken.
A technical tour also was arranged during which Herrmann, Natale, and Maughan-Brown had an opportunity to view the Thames Barrier, which in spanning a distance of 520 m across the river Thames in the Woolwich area of London is the world’s largest movable flood barrier. The ASCE delegation also had a chance to meet one of the engineers involved in the barrier’s creation, Jean Venables. Next, they visited the construction site at the Tottenham Court Road station on London’s subway system (“Underground”) and saw some of the work being carried out in connection with the new railway link being built under central London.
For its part, the ASCE delegation hosted a reception in London for local Society members and ICE and IStructE officials. The delegation concluded its stay in the United Kingdom with a visit to the IStructE’s headquarters and a talk with that group’s chief executive, Martin Powell. The meeting focused on strategic initiatives and areas in which the two organizations could fruitfully work together.
Moving on to Paris, the ASCE delegation held a series of meetings with their French counterparts at IESF. The two-day talks centered on international relations, the education and training of civil engineers, sustainability, and infrastructure. A number of other French engineering groups also made presentations, among them the Association française de l'Institution of Civil Engineers (the French branch of the ICE), the Association française du génie parasismique (French Association for Earthquake Engineering), the Institut pour la recherche appliquée et l’expérimentation en génie civil (Institute for Applied Research and Experimentation in Civil Engineering), and the Association universitaire de génie civil. What is more, Jacques Roudier, the president of the section concerned with science and technology in France’s Conseil général de l’environnement et du développement durable, made a presentation on France’s transportation infrastructure plan.
To commemorate the meetings, Herrmann presented IESF’s president, Julien Roitman, and the other IESF officers with a plaque, and the French hosts in turn presented each of ASCE’s representatives with an IESF medal. The proceedings were concluded with Herrmann and Roitman affixing their signatures to a document renewing the agreement of cooperation between the two groups and endorsing the goals set forth in The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025.
In Oslo, Norway, Herrmann and Natale were invited to attend the opening session of a conference on climate change organized by Tekna. One of the goals of the conference was to explore ways of developing innovative solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The ASCE delegation also met with Marianne Harg, the president of Tekna’s board of directors, as well as with that group’s board members, leaders, and staffers.
“We exchanged information on our organizations and their operations,” says Herrmann. “Again, we found joint areas where we had much in common in sustainability and infrastructure. They already have raised their bar by requiring a master’s degree for full membership in Tekna, and they were also intrigued with the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision sustainability rating system. The Norwegians are thinking about ways to increase sustainability in their structures, so they showed quite a bit of interest in creating their own rating system similar to what we did.”
Herrmann and representatives from Tekna also signed a document endorsing the goals enunciated in The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025. Later, members of Norway’s structural steel association took Herrmann, Natale, and Maughan-Brown on a technical tour of the Holmenkollbakken ski jump (www.norway.org/News_and_events/Culture/Architecture--Design/The-New-Holmenkollen-Ski-Jump/) and a new pedestrian bridge in Oslo.
“As a structural engineer, I particularly enjoyed the technical tours,” says Herrmann. “The ski jump tour was led by the structural engineer who designed it, and he was candid about the challenges he overcame in its design. The pedestrian bridge solved the problem of crossing a myriad of railroad tracks and platforms by using minimal piers and hanging the walkway from an overhead truss.”
In the final leg of the trip, the ASCE delegation flew to Düsseldorf, Germany, to meet with the executive board of the VDI, the group’s president, Bruno O. Braun, and the members of its science and technology committee.
“They gave us an overview of their organization,” says Herrmann. “VDI is a general engineering organization which represents all engineers except electrical, and we had meetings with them and with their civil engineering branch, the Society of Civil Engineering and Building Services. We discussed both organizations, we talked about infrastructure, we gave them copies of our report cards and the Failure to Act series, we touched on sustainability, and we asked them questions about their licensing and their educational requirements.”
Herrmann and Natale were also taken on a technical tour of a new Hyatt hotel. This hotel earned a high rating in Germany’s DGNB (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen, German Sustainable Building Council) rating system, which is analogous to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. The building uses groundwater for heating and cooling and recycles the groundwater after it has been used in the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, Herrmann explains. “They actually have two sets of water pipes in the building. One was to bring clean water in copper pipes for potable use, and then one set to bring used groundwater from the HVAC system in plastic pipes for nonpotable uses such as flushing the toilet or watering plants. So sustainability was achieved by the reuse of water.”
Overall, Herrmann and Natale regard the trip as a successful mission. They believe ASCE was able to exchange valuable information with its European counterparts and are convinced that this exchange will lay the groundwork for greater cooperation on the part of professional engineers to both realize the goals described in The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 and give fuller scope to the principles of sustainable development, a critical concern of the global community. This European mission, together with the memorandums signed, will help to ensure that engineers are at the forefront of efforts to develop and apply technologies for the benefit of society.
“We were well received,” notes Natale. “That was a pretty consistent theme, and it is not only this year but also when we traveled on previous ASCE presidential trips. ASCE, I believe, is held in very high regard in the global engineering community, and over the years we’ve worked hard to build credibility for what ASCE stands for and what we do.”
“ASCE was recognized wherever we traveled,” concludes Herrmann. “The consistency of our strategic initiatives with our counterparts and our credibility outside the U.S. were evident in our discussions.”