Vision for the Future: A Case for Change
What will the structural engineering profession be like in the future? What will the qualifications of structural engineers include? These questions along with an introspective look at how the profession arrived in its current form, and mechanisms for change are explored in “A Vision for the Future of Structural Engineering and Structural Engineers: A case for change”.
The report asserts that structural engineers of the future will need to be innovators and leaders to respond to our changing working environment. While much of the evolution of structural engineering is beyond the influence of SEI, there are certain actions that SEI can take to help mold the profession’s future. Recommendations for education and professional practice are presented as starting points for SEI Board implementation. Recommendations range from a thorough scrutiny of the formal education, to increasing global participation; from establishing a transition expectation via internships, to creating a profession-wide expectation for innovation and leadership.
The SEI Board of Governors accepted this report on Oct. 24, 2013 and will convene to consider its recommendations in February 2014. Download the report and consider the future of the profession.
Learn how to support these initiatives.
2008 Strategic Visioning and 2011 Strategic Initiatives
In 2008, the SEI Board of Governors met and put forth the following strategic vision for the profession 25 years into the future:
In 2033, the Structural Engineering profession will be:
- A unique, fully engaged profession with a strong identity;
- Recognized for the contribution the profession makes to:
• public safety and risk management,
• economic and sustainable use of resources,
• the use of innovative technologies, and
• the creation of inspiring structures;
- Stewards of the built environment; and
- Attractive to the best and brightest.
At that time, the goal was to envision the desired characteristics for the structural engineering profession at large. The stated vision statement represented the long view of 25 years into the future. Four years after it met to establish the above statement, the SEI Board of Governors met again to build upon the strategic vision of 2008 and specifically to identify topics and strategic issues that it would like to consider for action.
At the conclusion of three meetings dedicated to this process, the SEI Board of Governors identified the following two main topics as high-priority initiatives:
- The Future Structural Engineer, and
- Future Structural Codes & Standards
The following sketches were developed to support the Future Structural Engineer: Expectations and Role of the Future Structural Engineer, Structural Engineer Licensure, Continuing Education, and International Links and Globalization.
1a) Expectations and Role of the Future Structural Engineer
- Strategic Issue: The waning art of structural engineering practice, coupled with the decrease in understanding of the fundamental principles and diminished opportunity for creativity, erode the ability to attract and retain the best and brightest young professionals to the profession.
- Desired Outcome: Explore and define what the structural engineering profession looks like for the next generation of structural engineers, including the path for education, practical knowledge gain, and technology applications that will and should exist throughout a career.
1b) Structural Engineer Licensing
- Strategic Issue: Increases in complexity of structural design responsibility, including advances in building codes and standards, design aids and tools such as computer programs, project delivery methods, and construction materials, could undermine the profession’s ability to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public from unqualified and inexperienced professionals designing inadequate structures.
- Desired Outcomes: Enact legislation for structural engineering licensure requirements in all jurisdictions by creating a plan for working proactively with local engineers, stakeholders, and engineering organizations, and developing resources such as statistical data, white papers, case studies, etc. to support the efforts of local structural engineers.
1c) Continuing Education
- Strategic Issue: Lack of a governing body and inconsistencies in continuing education offerings and mandatory requirements dilute the benefits of continuing education for practicing structural engineers.
- Desired Outcome: Outline a comprehensive approach to education after graduation, including expectations for mentoring and formal courses.
1d) International Links and Globalization
- Strategic Issue: Advances in technology and increasingly interdependent economies have changed the way structural engineers deliver their services; the rate of change is accelerating, and SEI needs to develop a proactive approach to educate, train and accredit structural engineers in this changing global environment.
- Desired Outcomes: Establish an international and diverse working group to develop a path towards global structural engineering accreditation standards. Develop a series of short white papers on the opportunities and constraints for structural engineering projects in emerging markets, as well as opportunities for American structural engineers pursuing work internationally. Provide leadership for the development of a strong structural engineering community in Africa. Maintain/strengthen the SEI/ASCE brand name internationally.
The following sketch was developed to support the Codes of the Future initiative:
2) Codes of the Future
- Strategic Issue: Recent code and standard development process changes, as well as advances in our understanding of structural loads and behavior and increasing demands for improved performance, economy, and sustainability, result in structural code and standard complexity and coordination challenges for the users.
- Desired Outcome #1: Transform the Structural Standard and International Code Council (ICC)
Development Process so that changes do not occur as often (for example, a six year instead of a three year cycle), which will permit users to apply the current standards for a period of time before new changes are introduced. Also, coordinate the development and adoption cycle of standards with each other and with the International Building Code so that they can be coordinated and adopted in phase.
- Desired Outcome #2: Develop new Structural Standards that are less complex, simpler to apply, and provide more design freedom for the most common structures.
The SEI Board of Governors has a strong desire to proactively provide the visioning and strategic initiatives for the structural engineering profession, as well as for the Structural Engineering Institute. The President and Vice President of the Board, as well as the SEI Director, have been identified to be responsible for the continued management of the strategic process.
From this point, the SEI Board of Governors will develop strategies and initiatives to achieve the desired outcomes listed in the sketches above. It is the intent of the SEI Board of Governors that while it is responsible for creating the framework and identifying the strategic issues with which to begin, that the execution of and dedication to the identified priorities and selected strategies necessary to achieve the vision will only occur with strong commitment on the part of the SEI membership. This requires an iterative mechanism for communicating and receiving feedback on all priorities and initiatives.