In his 2013 State of the Society address, ASCE Executive Director Patrick J. Natale, P.E., CAE, F.ASCE, had an important message for the Society membership: ASCE continues as a leader in public policy, remains committed to improving the nation’s infrastructure, advocates for sustainable design and construction, calls for change in the future educational requirements for professional engineers, serves as a global leader, and advances understanding of the profession through the development of an IMAX movie showcasing engineering on a grand scale.
Speaking at the October 10 Annual Business Meeting at the Society’s 142nd Annual Civil Engineering Conference, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Natale stressed, “Today, ASCE’s influence and knowledge base is broader than at any time in our history. Thanks to your dedication and countless hours of volunteer time, we are a strong organization making the world a better place.
“I’m happy to report that the Society remains financially sound, our reserves are strong, and our membership is growing. And I’m proud to say we now have over 145,000 members worldwide.”
Committed to Improving the Nation’s Infrastructure
Citing the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which debuted on March 19, Natale emphasized that while an overall grade of D+ was only slightly higher than the D grade in the last Report Card in 2009, the improvement reflected higher grades in 6 categories. To highlight such progress, the report included success stories from every state, helping to show that where investment was made in infrastructure, the grades went up.
“To help improve the nation’s infrastructure, ASCE has gathered the facts to aid in infrastructure advocacy efforts,” Natale told the audience. “ASCE continues to be a respected leader in public policy. The [U.S.] Senate Environment and Public Works Committee invited ASCE President DiLoreto to come to Capitol Hill to testify at a committee hearing on the need to renew the federal surface transportation act.”
In addition, Natale noted that with the four ASCE Failure to Act economic studies published in 2012, and a final summary released this past January, ASCE has clearly demonstrated the overall economic opportunity associated with infrastructure investment and the cost of failing to address the investment gap.
Building a Sustainable Future
In the area of sustainability, Natale said ASCE is helping civil engineers find new tools to use in their infrastructure work, such as the Envision rating tool, developed by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI).
“In just two and a half years after ASCE co-founded the ISI, the [institute] announced the first project to meet its approval using the Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system,” he reported. “Plus, more than 800 professionals have now received ISI’s Envision ENV SP verification training and are now qualified to use the…rating system. And ISI just announced a…credentialing program for college and university students, the provisional Envision Sustainability Professional ENV PV credential.”
Also, as stewards of the nation’s built and natural environment, Natale said ASCE is committed to helping civil engineers lead the next shift in sustainable design and construction. One example of walking the talk: ASCE’s Reston, Va., headquarters building was certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council for sustainability in existing buildings.
“This award is the culmination of a three-and-half-year journey by ASCE and the ASCE Foundation to demonstrate a shared commitment to encouraging the profession to adopt sustainable practices. And not only that, we’ve reduced our operating costs and gotten a good return on our investment thanks to the efficiencies gained by upgrades.”
Improving Civil Engineering Education and Outreach
Natale noted that ASCE continues to spread the message about the need to Raise the Bar on the educational requirements for future engineers entering professional practice. The Society has sent speakers to a variety of venues around the country and fostered discussion within the media. For example, an article in the October 2012 issue of Engineering News-Record featured as its cover story, “Professional Engineers’ License Debate Grows in Intensity.”
Natale reported that in the spring, ASCE provided Raise the Bar communications advocacy training for additional committed individuals at ASCE’s headquarters. Another training workshop was held in conjunction with the annual conference of ASCE’s Raise the Bar partner the National Society of Professional Engineers. Using those trained speaker resources, audiences in 40 locations across the country heard the Raise the Bar message this past fiscal year.
In an effort to provide Society members with the knowledge they need to succeed in their careers, Natale noted how ASCE’s body of technical knowledge keeps growing. More books, articles, and new continuing education programs have been made available this year, including courses on sustainable project management as well as ecological systems. ASCE is also exploring the possibility of offering selected live and on-demand webinars in Spanish for Latin American and Spanish audiences. And to make record-keeping easier for members, ASCE unveiled an easy and efficient way for them to track their continuing education courses and PDHs within ASCE’s myLearning course-offering and records database.
Looking to the future of the profession, ASCE has tapped into the enthusiasm of high school students considering a career in civil engineering. Natale described the successful startup of 15 pilot programs through ASCE’s new high school Civil Engineering Clubs program, which provides guidance materials and resources for Sections and Branches that want to pursue high school outreach.
Global Strategy and Dream Big!
Having returned from an important international global strategy mission to India and Indonesia in August, Natale shared with the audience how ASCE is expanding its efforts to provide services around the globe, particularly in Asia. The recent trip identified potential interest in ASCE offerings and sought partnerships, all instrumental for the goal of helping solve infrastructure challenges.
“Discussions were held with several quasi-government bodies, consulting firms, and universities in India focusing on the development of ASCE’s global strategy and how ASCE could better collaborate and partner with some of these entities,” Natale noted. “Also, ASCE signed the Jakarta Sustainability Protocol along with other allies in attendance at the 6th Civil Engineering Conference in the Asian Region.
Natale concluded his presentation by reemphasizing that ASCE is advancing the profession by working hard on ASCE’s key strategic initiatives – infrastructure, sustainability, and Raise the Bar – and by providing members with high-quality programs and sharing civil engineering knowledge with allies around the globe.
To highlight the wow factor, Natale played a 2-minute concept video showcasing plans for an IMAX movie Dream Big! Engineering Wonders of the World, which ASCE and the ASCE Foundation are pursuing to put engineering dramatically in the public eye. If fundraising goals are met, the film will showcase amazing engineering accomplishments from around the world, with such ancient candidates as the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China, and more recent marvels such as the Hoover Dam and the Hoover Dam Bypass alongside it. Not only that, the big-screen format will allow the world’s largest tunnel-boring drill to appear life-sized.
“Through this project,” Natale said, “audiences will experience the thrill of civil engineering as they soar to the top of the world’s tallest buildings and plunge below the earth’s surface.”
Natale closed by inviting engineers to come to Panama in a year to join in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal at ASCE’s Global Engineering Conference—Giga Projects, Unlocking Complexity (October 7-11, 2014). “I’m excited about the prospect of being there,” said Natale. “It will be a different kind of meeting.”
With so many great initiatives and events on the horizon, Natale envisions a bright future for the Society and its members.