ASCE continues to work across multiple fronts to better incorporate climate data into its future codes and standards.

Last fall, the Society signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Maryland and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to identify and collect climate data that will help inform future ASCE standards. The groups established the ASCE-NOAA Task Force for Climate Resilience in Engineering Practice, co-chaired by Bilal Ayyub, Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI, Dist.M.ASCE; Benjamin DeAngelo, deputy director of the NOAA Climate Program Office; and Dan Walker, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE, chair of the ASCE Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate.

Meanwhile, engineers and other leaders in the field gathered at ASCE headquarters in Reston, Virginia, Oct. 12, for the concluding Structural Engineering Institute Climate Impacts Workshop, a series of events designed to connect leaders from ASCE with leading climate scientists and partners, including NOAA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among other organizations, to work toward climate-forward standards.

“It takes 10 years to get anything we do now into the building codes,” said Don Scott, P.E., F.SEI, F.ASCE, SEI president and chair of the climate impacts working group. “If we start now, we can get something into the next building code. If not, we’re waiting 15, 20 years. We need something for designers to use that can inform their decisions. And we can’t wait.”

The cycle of work to prepare the next edition of ASCE/SEI 7: Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, the Society’s signature standard, begins soon. Abbie Liel, Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI, F.ASCE, a professor of civil, environmental, and architectural engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, will chair the new Future Environmental Hazards Subcommittee in the 2028 revision cycle of ASCE 7, charged with incorporating new provisions into the standard for considering climate-informed environmental hazards.

“I think we as a profession have an obligation to put more information out there about how to build resiliently in the face of future climate hazards,” Liel said. “And I think ASCE is the right group to do it, and the time is now.”

The ASCE Board of Direction approved at its July meeting a set of recommendations made by the Society’s Industry Leaders Council aimed at updates to ASCE standards to keep pace with the climate change realities. Wednesday, ILC member Ray Daddazio, P.E., F.EMI, M.ASCE, challenged workshop attendees to “develop guidelines or pre-standards to address key changes needed to keep pace with climate change realities between standard development cycles.” This requires that engineers and standards developers rapidly integrate climate data into ASCE codes and standards and guidelines that are used every day to design infrastructure.

The partnership with NOAA and the University of Maryland will go a long way toward building that data. The organizations have worked together – led by Dan Walker and ASCE Distinguished Member Bilal Ayyub – for a year of workshops to determine what data is needed and how best to work together.

In short, ASCE needs reliable climate data for its standards; NOAA wants its climate services to be put into practice.

It’s a two-way street, this partnership between ASCE and NOAA,” Walker said.

Ayyub called this “the most collaborative coordinated approach toward climate change in ASCE history.” And he would know. He was a founding member of the ASCE Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate when it formed a decade ago and served as editor of Manual of Practice 140, Climate-Resilient Infrastructure: Adaptive Design and Risk Management in 2018.

Ayyub sees this collaborative work toward developing climate-resilient codes and standards as a natural progression of this work.

“The spike in hazards that we’ve started to see has changed the expectations in terms of project requirements,” Ayyub said. “Many owners ask to include climate requirements in the design now. But what happened, as a result, is that designers and engineers were improvising. They’re asking ASCE for updated codes and standards to help them.

“So what we have now is a coordinated effort, heading toward the same goal.”

ASCE and NOAA will co-host a Leadership Summit on Climate-Ready Infrastructure, Feb. 1-2, 2023, at ASCE headquarters.

The collaborative efforts are not designed to end in 2023 or with the next round of standards.

“What we need is a sustainable process that’s going to be around; something engineers can count on for decades,” Walker said.

“We want to create a pipeline for this process, so that it continues to be acted upon in the future,” Ayyub said. “Codes and standards need to be updated every five to 10 years. So not only are we interested in the best projections we have now, but we are also interested in developing the links that will carry this work into the future.”

Learn more about ASCE standards at the new ASCE Peer-to-Peer Standards Exchange community.