ASCE has a new initiative called the Grand Challenge. Simply, this is the difference in cost of the ever growing need for infrastructure and the growing cost of construction and the shrinking funding sources that exist. The gap is projected to grow larger. The challenge is to find more creative ways for funding and create or engineer better and longer life on projects to reduce cost of construction, and/or increase the life cycle and maintenance costs.

From ASCE National Website:

pres message e18d9The investments needed to improve our infrastructure continue to increase well beyond available funding. How do we close the infrastructure gap? ASCE has issued a grand challenge to civil engineers and the industry:

• Significantly enhance the performance and value of infrastructure projects over their life cycles by 2025.

• Foster the optimization of infrastructure investments for society.
To reach this goal, the profession must influence major policy changes and infrastructure funding levels, while challenging civil engineers to focus on innovation, rethink life cycle costs, and drive transformational change-from planning to design to delivery.

As one of the first steps in this new ASCE Grand Challenge strategic initiative, the Society launched the ASCE Innovation Contest, which encouraged professionals, educators, and students to share their most creative ideas for reshaping our nation's infrastructure. ASCE has also introduced a four-part webinar series on strategies to close the gap between infrastructure needs and funding.

As Civil Engineers, we need to educate the public and ourselves to be able to accomplish this goal. The lower cost solution may not have the lowest maintenance cost or have a longer life cycle cost. An Engineer who was helped me learn the Art of Engineering told me always have five reasons why you decided to design something a certain way. If anyone questions or comments on the design and you can support the design with five reasons then it showed the engineering judgement you went through to arrive at the current solution. I have not always had five reasons for all my designs, but most times there are double that amount if you think about it.

The Grand Challenge asks us to consider more than the initial capital cost as the deciding factors in our designs. Have the five reasons. An example of this concept is as simple as the placement of a storm drain clean out with a manhole access. Think about how the maintenance crew will have to access the manhole in the future. If it is in a fast traffic lane, how will the traffic control needed to access the manhole affect the congestion on the roadway. What is the added cost for the traffic control when the crew needs to get the manhole? Is the crew able to drive to the manhole with equipment or must they carry it in by foot? We can continue, but I think you get the idea. Please go to the links in this article and learn more about this challenge.


Mark H. Webb, P.E.
San Diego Section President


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