Workshop Establishes Tone of Collaboration in ASCE’s Push for Sustainability

October 26, 2017
Steve Fisher, Ph.D., P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE, member of the ASCE Committee on Sustainability, maps out lifecycle cost strategies during a breakout session at the ASCE ICSI 2017 NYC Sustainability Workshop.

It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation.

The sustainability challenge is too complex and too urgent for any one group to solve it alone. So it was a momentous step forward, Wednesday, to bring together ASCE sustainability leaders and National Science Foundation Sustainability Research Network leaders at the ASCE 2017 NYC Sustainability Workshop in Brooklyn.

“Very successful meeting,” said Cris Liban, P.E., M.ASCE, chair of ASCE’s Committee on Sustainability. “We’re on our way.”

Sustainability Research Networks are NSF-funded projects striving to achieve many of the same goals as the ASCE Committee on Sustainability. Projects pursue infrastructure innovations for extreme events, water systems, and sustainable and healthy cities, and include U.S. and international collaborators.

Leaders of three SRNs delivered presentations at the workshop, igniting an exchange on how the different groups could coordinate with ASCE’s committee and capitalize on the upcoming release of the committee’s Roadmap to Sustainability.

“We broke ground on conversation on how the SRNs could be of value to ASCE and how the COS could be of value to the SRNs,” said Mikhail Chester, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE, who co-leads Urban Resilience to Extremes at Arizona State University, an SRN known as UREx. “We heard a lot of great ideas. We have a lot of things to think about and we have some action items.”

Among the quick, tangible solutions: turning UREx monthly workshops into continuing education webinars, or gearing UREx research reports specifically to the ASCE community.

Collaboration is an essential piece of every solution – whether it’s linking scholars and practitioners (as UREx does), uniting like-minded leaders (as Wednesday’s workshop did), or getting a variety of stakeholders to work together on a project level.

“The New York City Department of Transportation relies on external partnerships, including industry experts, engineering and design professionals, and academic institutions, to support innovation and advance the practice of sustainability and resilience,” said Lacy Shelby, the department’s director of Resiliency Planning and Management. “The Agency enables its staff to collaborate with and learn alongside partners as a strategy to advance sustainable practices and drive innovation in transportation planning, design, and construction.”

The workshop was a prelude of sorts to ASCE’s International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure 2017, which will find many of the same people working to solve many of the same issues.

“The more we can get people in the same room talking, the better, because otherwise it’s hard to keep up with everything that’s going on and who’s doing what. And a lot of times that leaves people duplicating efforts or just not being as effective and efficient as we can be,” said Sam Markolf, a researcher at Arizona State.

“Hopefully we can tackle the sustainability challenge from multiple perspectives and have everyone going in the same direction.”

The International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure 2017 begins Thursday, Oct. 26. Keep up with all of the action on social media with #ICSI2017.

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