Less than a year after adopting a new strategic plan, ASCE is well on its way to putting that vision into practice.

The ASCE Board of Direction took several important strategic steps at its meeting in Buffalo, New York, July 21-22, including establishing dedicated standards and grants offices. Both new offices are intended to enhance business and revenue growth significantly for the organization.

ASCE has established itself over decades as the go-to source for industry codes and standards, most notably well-known standards from the Structural Engineering Institute. However, the Society’s current standards model doesn’t address all sectors of the industry. The new standards office, with full-time staffing, will develop a comprehensive plan for new standards, guidelines, and manuals of practice that provide forward-thinking investment and reinforce ASCE’s legacy as the premier technical society for civil engineers worldwide.

“Civil engineers are systems thinkers, and we provide guidance on how to upgrade, optimize and modernize the entire system,” said 2023 ASCE President Maria C. Lehman. “By really focusing on upgrading existing standards, creating new ones, and using the framework of performance specifications as opposed to prescriptive specifications, we unleash innovation. For ASCE, it means we will see better products and a steady revenue stream that takes our industry-leading ideas into practice.”

The grants office, meanwhile, will be dedicated to proposal development and administration of externally funded federal and foundation grants. As with standards, ASCE has already enjoyed plenty of success in this arena, but the grants office brings a new level of resources and emphasis to the undertaking. An increase in external funding would expand the Society’s potential impact on the profession, while continuing to strengthen relationships with federal agencies.

“Grant work will help ASCE to grow both in stature but also in membership, especially student and younger members, as they will see the exciting future we will build together,” Lehman said. “The grants area will also allow us to do more for the health of our environment and planet, another major priority of Gen X, Y, and Z-ers.”

These changes align with the report the board received from the Board Strategic Advisory Council, Program and Finance Committee Joint Subcommittee on Strategic Alignment. The subcommittee identified four institutional tools to help achieve the shifts noted in the new ASCE strategic plan. They are:

  • Reassessment and reimagination of ASCE’s organizational structure and budget process.
  • Dedicated external funding/grants office.
  • Market-driven product development office.
  • More efficient and responsive IT systems and business processes.

Additionally, the subcommittee presented three key concepts – a “one-ASCE” budget process, heightening member engagement through Communities of Practice defined by areas of interest, and an emphasis on personalized member value – as it finalizes the recommendations it will present at the October board meeting.

With the board approving the standards office, the grants office, and the Accelerated ASCE Digital Strategy and Efficiency Plan (funding significant IT upgrades and digital member experience improvements), implementing the new strategic plan is no longer a projection; it’s happening.

“I am really impressed with our collective ‘need for speed,’” Lehman said. “Many of the priorities from our new strategic plan have been implemented into the 2024 budget. That means from the starting gate to passing a plan that envisions a new and exciting future to the actual funding of program priorities was done in 18 months. That is very impressive!”

Other meeting highlights

The board voted to approve the fiscal 2024 operating budget, the institutes’ budgets, the Civil Engineering Certification Inc.’s budget, and the capital budget.

The board heard a variety of reports from ASCE organizational entities and approved a new and streamlined structure for Member Communities that provides student and younger members committees with a direct line of communication and reporting to the ASCE Executive Committee. 

As ASCE continues to advance the Society’s Future World Vision and strategic plan, the Task Committee to Review Vision 2025 is looking at the 2009 ASCE book The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 to see how the actual state of the industry measures up to the projection. It is sending out detailed surveys to collect information and will report back this fall.

The board approved the creation of an event code of conduct that will be included with registration sites for all Society meetings with attendees required to agree to the terms. This is one part of a larger justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion call to action that the board is developing.

Former ASCE president K.N. “Guna” Gunalan, now vice-chair of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure, took part in a presentation detailing ICSI’s goals and potential partnerships with ASCE as it builds a global engineering community to prioritize resilience and sustainability.

The board approved updated policy statements, as well as new policy statements on infrastructure facilities for electric vehicles, energy research and development, risk-informed design, energy storage systems, energy production and generation, and environmental justice.