ASCE Members visit the Port of Long Beach. Photo courtesy of Bill Wallace.


After seeing the Panama Canal in October, what could be more informative than ASCE’s inaugural International Conference on Sustainability in California? Long Beach was the perfect venue for talking about the challenges of a port city and sustainability issues in general.

From a World Bank speaker addressing the role and importance of sustainable infrastructure to sessions on the sustainability of levees in an earthquake zone and the national security implications of protecting our critical infrastructure, more than 300 people exchanged valuable ideas.  A number of people talked about the role of Envision and how it contributes to clearly defining what is truly a sustainable infrastructure project.

A night time tour of the Port of Long Beach was especially interesting given the volume of activity and the steps they’ve taken to become more sustainable. The Port established a special power arrangement with Southern California Edison allowing the big cargo ships to plug into electrical outlets. By plugging, the ships operate on electricity during the whole unloading/loading process. It’s not only more efficient but also lessens the environmental impact by eliminating the pollution previously caused by the ships’ engines while in port.

I’m particularly looking forward to the next International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure to be held in China in 2016. China is working hard to incorporate eco-design from the start and there will be plenty to learn as they grow at such a rapid pace.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing developed and developing countries as they build sustainable infrastructure?



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