On an official ASCE President’s trip last week to the University of Michigan, I had a great experience meeting the inspiring civil engineering students there and touring the university’s labs. There, I was exposed to an example of engineering progress that can help you make the case that spending extra now to do something right will lead to greater savings over the long haul.
The university has developed a high strength, high ductility concrete that is helping Michigan DOT replace deck joints with a material that will last 20 years, not the typical five years of a normal replacement. Although the kicker is the new concrete costs twice as much, it’s pretty clear to see that spending double now for something that lasts four times as long will mean a savings of 50 percent over the life cycle of that replacement.
One of the ASCE Report Card for America’s Infrastructure’s “5 Key Solutions” to raise the grades is to “address life-cycle costs and ongoing maintenance to meet the needs of current and future users.” The new concrete I saw at the University of Michigan and how it was used fits the bill perfectly.
In your designs and other work, how much of a priority do you give life-cycle costs?
Can you relay an experience when you had a tough time persuading clients, be they private or government, that an initially costlier option was a better one in the long term? Did you win or lose that battle? Have any suggestions for coming out on top in those debates?