Davis Sees Her Hard Work Transformed to Meaningful Infrastructure

December 5, 2014

Davis, Courtney colorThe $1.35 billion Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) Surge Barrier is a key component of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers new system to reduce the risk of storm damage to areas of southeast Louisianamost vulnerable to a future storm surge generated from Lake Borgne and the Gulf of Mexico. The massive project, which is nearly 2 miles long and 26 feet high and was the winner of ASCE’s 2014 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) Award, was designed to be the first line of defense against a future storm surge – 12 miles from the heart of New Orleans.

In 2008, right after graduating with a master’s degree from Washington State University, Courtney Davis, P.E., M.ASCE, relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana, and started work with the overall IHNC project management team, involving herself in much of the coordination, tracking, and decision making that led to the successful completion of the surge barrier.

“The engineering talent on the project was incredible,” recalled Davis, who at that time was employed by INCA-Gerwick JV, one of the Engineers of Record on the project. “I had a very high-level understanding of the project and was proud to contribute to something that will play such a significant role in protecting the people of New Orleans from hurricanes in the future.

“Our project was designed to resist a 100-year storm event and corresponding storm surge. The completion of the IHNC project reduced flooding in some areas by over 10 feet. While working on this project, I discovered that one of the greatest things about civil engineering is the fact that you can design projects that save lives.”

Davis’ unique structural design experience is one of her greatest strengths. Today employed as a project engineer for KPFF Consulting Engineers, she has worked on projects ranging from waterfront structures, below-grade light rail tunnel stations, and bridges. Presently, Davis is managing the construction support on the Denman Island Ferry Project, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada – which will be the longest cable ferry in the world – where she designed the movable steel transition that bridges the gap between the ferry and the adjacent pontoon.

“I am leading the construction support effort and was one of the lead designers of what I would describe as a one-of-a-kind project. It was designed as a cable ferry because it requires less staff and energy to navigate the straight path back and forth. We’ve worked together with a number of different companies designing the pontoon, ramps, cable, anchorages, and ferry boat, so when construction is completed by the end of summer 2015, it is going to be exciting to see.”

Davis’s group within KPFF focuses on unique structures and she finds that on any given day, she can be working on structures below ground, floating on water, or in the air. This environment keeps her excited about her next projects and the new challenges ahead.

Her research accomplishments include receiving the Masonry Society’s 2009 Best Master’s Thesis for her paper “Evaluation of Design Provisions for In-Plane Shear in Masonry Walls,” presented at the Society’s conference in Chicago. Based on the results of the research study, recommendations were made to improve the strength design and allowable stress design provisions in the Building Code Requirements for Masonry Structures (ACI-530-11).

Active within ASCE, Davis is currently president of the Seattle Section YMF, where she has worked to increase membership, mentor students, and assist with the community service, K-12 outreach, and activity planning. In addition, she serves as Western Region Younger Member Council registration chair for the upcoming Multi-Regional Leadership Conference in Bellevue, Washington, in February, where she is supporting the sustainability-themed community service event, technical tours, and programming.

“I am very passionate about structural engineering,” says Davis, who also was co-chair of the Seattle YMF Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition in 2012-2013 and whose recent volunteer work includes Food Frenzy, Girls on the Run, Rebuilding Together, Habitat for Humanity, and Engineering Rocks, a K-12 outreach project through the local ASCE YMF. “I think my involvement in ASCE and mentoring has not only benefitted the students but continues to inspire me and reenergize my passion. 

“My time spent with students of all ages has cemented my belief that spending a few minutes with an elementary school student discussing engineering projects, or a couple of hours reviewing a resume, is worth every second. Sparing a small amount of time can make a huge difference in helping someone navigate their path.”

Davis concludes, “I view being a New Face of Civil Engineering as an opportunity to share my experiences with others and encourage other professionals to become involved in their community and spearhead outreach activities with aspiring engineers.”

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