Lessons Learned from the International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure

November 9, 2017
ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith

The need for resilient and sustainable infrastructure is hardly breaking news, but in the wake of devastating natural disasters around the country, the time to act is now. Last month in New York City, ASCE hosted the International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure, bringing together experts from around the world to discuss how to effectively build – and rebuild – infrastructure that is more sustainable, more resilient, and that better meets the needs of communities worldwide.

ICSI 2017 was truly international in scope and influence. It brought together diverse engineers from 25 countries, all eager to learn how they could build a business case and take an active role in developing sustainable infrastructure, for both new and existing projects. The message was clear that a global movement toward more sustainable development is needed to prepare us for significant challenges ahead, including population growth and increasingly severe weather conditions.

One of the plenary panel discussions brought together sustainability leaders from communities affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Sandy. The panelists emphasized what their communities were doing to construct climate-resilient infrastructure that could last many decades and endure increasingly potent storms, messages that are important as ASCE deploys Post-Disaster Assessment Teams to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Mexico City to evaluate the behavior of engineered facilities under extreme conditions, and learn from the behaviors observed.

Carol Haddock, P.E., M.ASCE, acting director of public works for the City of Houston and a member of ASCE’s Board of Direction, discussed how her emergency response teams and volunteers worked to save lives and recover homes. She also noted that the homes, which were rebuilt after previous disasters, adhering to modern codes and standards, are bouncing back the quickest. Roberto Leon, senior vice president at CSA Group, discussed how Puerto Rico teamed up with leading tech companies like Tesla and Google to restore power locally. Youn Sim, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, member of ASCE’s Committee on Sustainability and head of the Strategic Planning and Sustainability Office for Los Angeles County Public Works, expressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication with the community and treating all infrastructure systems as one, so that they can function together rather than separately. Each of the six panelists, which also included Nick Fang of UT Arlington; Luis Mendes, Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations, NYC DDC deputy commissioner for housing recovery; and Spencer Anderson, P.E., M.ASCE, interim director and county engineer, Sarasota County Public Works, showed how engineers who put their collective minds and skills together can create a strategy that will “build back better” for future generations.

The groundwork has been laid for us to build a sustainable and resilient future, remembering also ASCE’s Grand Challenge focus on life-cycle cost analysis. It’s up to us to keep the momentum going. I hope you can join us for the next International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure, taking place in Los Angeles in 2019.

In case you missed them, here are some other ways we are working for you:

Check out ASCE’s Certificate in Sustainable Infrastructure

This new certificate program will provide you with the knowledge, tools, and techniques that you need to design, build, and manage sustainable projects and to take a leadership role in making our nation’s infrastructure sustainable. Sign up today.

Use the Salary Calculator today – first two runs are free

Find out what civil engineers are paid in the United States and if you are getting paid what you’re worth. You can also use the new Salary Calculator to get personalized reports from data that is extracted directly from the Salary Survey. To make the most out of your free uses, view a video tutorial on the Salary Calculator.

Need a career training boost? ASCE offers more than 200 seminars

ASCE’s Face-to-Face Seminars provide practical, work-applicable skills in your specialty from experienced instructors. Discounts are available for two or more colleagues at the same firm who sign up for the same seminar. Grab a colleague and enhance your skills together.

Reduce your carbon footprint with ASCE’s new book

Sustainability is at the core of ASCE’s mission. Building construction and use are responsible for more than 40 percent of human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases. Structural Materials and Global Climate offers practical ways civil engineers can help reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.

Enjoy exclusive savings on major-brand appliances

Society membership can pay for itself with discounts and great programs that save you money. ASCE’s newest member advantages program, Whirlpool Inside Pass, offers exclusive savings that will help you upgrade home appliances at significant discounts. See how much you can save.

Discover new remote sensing applications for water resources free

Have you kept up with advancements in remote sensing and its water resources engineering applications? Become familiar with several in a free, member-exclusive eLearning webinar featuring presenters from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The session will take place Thursday, Dec. 7, at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT. Sign up today.

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