Posts filed under ‘Sustainability’
Engineers that understand infrastructure asset management are in demand within the US engineering marketplace. Infrastructure asset management specifically focuses on the need to sustain structures such as highways, bridges, water treatment facilities, electric utility and transmission lines in addition to many others. Mounting pressures to cut public spending, has much needed maintenance and rehabilitation put on hold. Meanwhile, US infrastructure continues to decay. The planning, design, construction, operations, maintenance, upgrading, and rehabilitation of infrastructure has become split among the private sector and public agencies .
What has become clear is the need for talented engineering managers that understand the delicate balance between planning, design, operation, maintenance and sustainability of infrastructure. My clients, architecture and consulting civil engineering firms, have multiple year initiatives for expanding consulting divisions that focus only on asset management. Whether it be underground tunneling for large diameter pipes, water/waste-water systems or transportation systems- the market and the money are HOT.
Consulting A/E firms seek to expand their ability to offer their clients asset management action plans that create an effective and practical business framework for transportation, stormwater, water and sanitary assets. One firm states the importance in providing agencies/municipalities a “comprehensive approach that creates a sustainable program to help achieve performance goals, minimize costs and meet stakeholder demands.” These asset management plans vary from firm to firm and may include but not be limited to: strategy and service level development; business planning; infrastructure assessment and planning; financial and capital planning; technology strategy implementation; operational excellence; computerized maintenance management systems.
Engineers with comprehensive business experience and practices will find a variety of opportunities open to them over the next year. This may reactivate the MBA vs. MSCE discussion. What do you think?
In 2008, we posted a brief BLOG titled “Sustainability in Civil Engineering.” Now, 3 years later, I asked several civil engineering leaders to discuss this topic. For example: Do clients request or require sustainable design? Is there a difference in cost on sustainable design projects? What else do you think about this topic? Here are their thoughts:
Mark Gabriel, Senior Vice President Strategy and Business Process, Black & Veatch
“Regarding sustainability, it is really about the efficient use of resources and has morphed into the realization of the triple bottom line. From an energy perspective all facets of construction (or deferral of construction) are now taken into account. For example, water use is a huge issue. In our 2011 Strategic Directions of the Utility Industry survey, water was the number one environmental issue by the 700 respondents. The challenge is that there is a cost to sustainable options that needs to be borne by someone–either the public or the shareholders. And, therein lies the challenge.
Sustainability in many ways is being “cooked” into the fabric of construction decisions as opposed to simply being another factor “sprinkled in” at the last minute to get a project constructed.”
Richard Diaz, PE, President, Diaz Pearson & Associates, Inc.
“In some respects, today’s Sustainability is a revival of the conservation movement back in the 1970’s. It still can be thought of as the wise use of our resources, the consciousness of designing infrastructure for the long term, and awareness that short term replacement and reconstruction are not realistic options. I think many would agree that there is more awareness today in our dwindling resources, many of which are precious.
Sustainable Development is more than just water cooler talk. For Civil Engineers, it’s also more than the ‘green theme’ architectural flavor of the day. Civil engineers have traditionally been concerned about sustainable design; as far back as I can remember. Life cycle cost and the creation of long term value have been civil engineering issues for a long time, not just current topics. Clearly there’s an appreciation for civil engineering’s ‘sustainability’ value that went into the Hoover Dam, Brooklyn Bridge and so many other notable landmarks still operating today.
Sustainability in design is critical, if nothing more, than to craft meaningful solutions to our infrastructure needs in competition with limited financial resources. Sadly, so much of our nation’s infrastructure has been overlooked and is in need of replacement. Arguably, one might believe that because of civil engineering’s core sustainability value, our nation’s infrastructure has been able to enjoy little maintenance attention. That’s no longer the case. We’re at the critical point in meeting our expected service needs for energy, transportation, water supply, and wastewater treatment.
Everywhere one looks there are social, educational, and medical issues competing for financial support. More than ever, sustainability in civil engineering design must be the central theme for creative solutions that match limited financial resources. I believe civil engineering’s core sustainability value will continue to provide reasonable solutions without compromise for the future. Perhaps more than ever this is an exciting and challenging time for civil engineering leadership!”
Jeanne Acutanza, PE, CH2M HILL and http://www.greengrowthcc.com
“Infrastructure clients, generally public agencies, are not only interested in sustainability to preserve natural environments and reduce energy use, but increasingly to save money. Measuring sustainability in infrastructure (like LEED certifications for buildings) is becoming necessary to compare and prioritize projects for funding as well as to optimize project efficiency. CH2M HILL pioneered one rating system with the University of Washington called the Greenroads rating system http://www.greenroads.org/. This tool is being used by funding agencies to help agencies enhance and optimize sustainability on their project grant submittals. CH2M HILL is leading a team to develop a rating tool for FHWA. The tool http://www.sustainablehighways.org/ builds on context sensitive solutions principles to evaluate highway projects. The tool is in its pilot testing phase. FHWA is seeking feedback from agencies using the tool.”
“The concept of sustainability is just beginning to get traction at least in the US public sector. We are starting to see some RFP’s that discuss or request sustainable design. However, clients are also being cautious in implementation. Will sustainable concepts increase costs? If yes, how much? Do sustainable designs add value to the project? If yes, can we demonstrate the benefits added. In the global marketplace, sustainability is more frequently cited in solicitations.”
As we continue to pursue resource conservation, what changes are you seeing from your clients and within your projects? Thoughts?
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
Leaders of “Building America’s Future” in their letter to President Obama commended him for his efforts and wrote in part:
“We write to ask for your continued leadership on the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, which will help rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, including our transportation, water and wastewater, broadband, power grid and other critical assets. As you know, the American Society of Civil Engineers identified more than $2.2 trillion in outstanding infrastructure needs. We cannot improve our infrastructure through the annual appropriations process alone.
We must renew our commitment to a National Infrastructure Bank that can help leverage public and private dollars, address regional and national needs and spur a rebirth in how our country invests in infrastructure. Building America’s Future, along with many other organizations, has educated the public about the outstanding needs throughout our country. Cities and states are struggling to find enough resources on their own.”
Critics are pontificating on the reasons why this will not work. One of their concern centers on the shortfall of the initial investment. Their thought is that we can’t find enough money to fully fund a trillion dollar need, so why fund with a “paltry” $60 billion? Secondly, critics are hung up on the term “bank.” Banks need to lend money and generate revenue, and therefore make investments that repay themselves. Since all infrastructure projects will not return large financial investment, then critics want the bank funding investment portfolio modified. Finally, the critics regard any federal organization as ineffective.
We cannot afford another eight years of inactivity and political battles.
These infrastructure repairs are desperately needed. This is our industry’s future and we support this initiative.
So. Tired of dealing with traffic congestion, long commutes, urban sprawl and air pollution? Interested in Sustainability? Interested in Urban Redevelopment? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to check out Tokyo’s Sky City.
Tokyo, Japan’s Sky City is in essence, a true city within a city. In the planning stages for many years now, the Sky City project is geared towards freeing up congestion and providing some “oh-so needed” green space in downtown Tokyo. The largest metropolitan region in the world with over 35M people (according to Wikipedia), Tokyo is jam packed to say the least and the urban sprawl is ri-dic-u-lous.
The average commute is two hours, many streets and roads are inaccessible and unnavigable for many emergency vehicles, and the civil engineering infrastructure is over capacity. Many Japanese citizens believe the answer to these problems is to build vertically, like Sky City. Sky City would reach two-thirds of a mile straight up into the sky and would accommodate 35,000 residents and 100,000 workers with apartments, offices, commercial facilities, movie theaters, a stadium, schools, hospitals, a monorail, etc. The reality is that one could live, work and play in Sky City without ever having to leave…ever.
Check out the first segment of video as seen on The Discovery Channel’s “Extreme Engineering”:
The remaining four segments you can find on YouTube as they get much deeper into all the cool research and engineering that is required to accomplish such a feat.
What an amazing concept; key word here being “concept.” Do you believe this concept will become reality? Can these types of vertical cities really be as structurally sound as they need to be? Would you live in a place like this? If this works in Tokyo could we one day see this “metropolis of the future” in New York City?
If this is really what the future holds, and if these types of projects will one day become common place as our population continues to soar, then how can one NOT be excited about a career in civil engineering?
What’s your take on Sky City?
Is it really necessary to become a LEED accredited professional (LEED AP)? Can you design for sustainability without having LEED accreditation? Is this just another acronym to put on a business card? Or, as some suggest, is this a half hearted attempt by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to exploit the demand for solutions to environmental issues and make some money along the way?
Just a few years ago only a select few individuals had LEED AP following their name. Now more than 75,000 architects and engineers proudly display this designation to demonstrate their prowess in green building, strategies and technologies. The USGBC clearly states that the “LEED Professional Accreditation distinguishes building professionals with the knowledge and skills to successfully steward the LEED certification process.” As LEED certification becomes better defined, the LEED AP testing has become more difficult and comprehensive.
The LEED train has left the station and whether critics like it or not, it is here to stay. Therefore, having LEED AP on your resume will become a necessity and possibly valued in the future as the PE, AIA, RLA or AICP designations are now. Whether one can or has designed with an eye to sustainability in the past will no longer matter, without having the acronym after their name. Experts concur that, for now, LEED is here to stay and one might as well get on board.
Do understand that as the U.S. increases desirability and need for green design, skeptics are becoming louder and activists more outspoken. Pete Wann’s blog on the “Fashion of LEED Bashing” suggests that the original critics were builders and developers and that today’s naysayers are those from the environmental and architectural traditionalist movements. While an Internet search turned up plenty of arguments on both sides of the recycled fence, I still think that in spite of its flaws and inadequacies, the LEED program is better than nothing when it motivates people to seriously face the future environmental challenges. And if we are going to have universally accepted guidelines (I don’t see the USGBC going away) then why not have professionals accredited? What do you think?