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ASCE-Pittsburgh and Sustainable Pittsburgh to Address Climate Change Resilience Engineering at Annual Conference

03 May 2016 8:22 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

Tom Batroney, PE, ENV SP, M.ASCE – ASCE Pittsburgh Sustainability Committee Chair, Mott MacDonald

Greg Scott, PE, M.ASCE – Environmental and Water Resources Institute – Pittsburgh Chapter Chair, Buchart Horn

On Thursday, May 19th at 8:00 AM at the August Wilson Center in downtown Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Pittsburgh Chapter of Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI), and Sustainable Pittsburgh/Champions for Sustainability (C4S) will be hosting its annual day-long Sustainability Conference. Now in its 8th year, the Sustainability Conference has presented cutting edge themes and topics associated with the ever changing topic of sustainability in civil engineering. The very first ASCE-PGH/EWRI/C4S Sustainability Conference in 2008 explored the potential impacts of climate change on regional infrastructure. Since the inaugural conference in 2008, the overall landscape and dialogue relating to climate change has greatly changed. No longer is the dialogue about whether or not climate change may exist or potentially pose a threat to critical infrastructure. The dialogue has now shifted to developing real and tangible infrastructure protection strategies against the impacts climate change while at the same time finding new and innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

According to scientists from many reputable government agencies, including the National Air and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is a weight of evidence indicating that the Earth’s climate is undergoing a change that may have serious future consequences on our lives and infrastructure. In response to these growing concerns, the ASCE national headquarters adopted Policy Statement 360 in 2015 on the impact of climate change on the civil engineering profession. The policy statement reads:

“Civil engineers are responsible for the planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance of physical infrastructures, including buildings, communication facilities, energy generation and distribution facilities, industrial facilities, transportation networks, water resources facilities and urban water systems. These physical infrastructures have long service lives (50 to 100 years) and are expected to remain functional, durable and safe during that time. These facilities are exposed to and are vulnerable to the effects of extreme climate and weather events. Engineering practices and standards associated with these facilities must be revised and enhanced to address climate change to ensure they continue to provide acceptably low risks of failures in functionality, durability and safety over their service lives.”

The above policy statement is definitive in stating that the civil engineer practice and its practitioners have a duty to consider the impacts of climate change. As we go forward with new critical infrastructure projects and upgrades to existing infrastructure, we as civil engineers must consider if climate change may pose a substantial risk to the “functionality, durability, and safety” on the project.

The following is a brief outline of the speakers and topics for 8th Annual Sustainability Conference. To see the full agenda and to register visit the ASCE-PGH website.

  •  Grant Ervin, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Pittsburgh and the City’s Resilience office will provide an update for how the city is progressing in their on-going (and near complete) city-wide resilience assessments, transportation via complete streets initiative, and resilient stormwater management.
  • Duane Verner from Argonne National Laboratory’s Global Security Sciences Division will provide insights on conducting site-level vulnerability assessments and developing climate change adaptation strategies for cities and critical infrastructure.
  • National ASCE’s Committee on Adaption to a Changing Climate released a free publication in 2015 titled “Adapting Infrastructure and Civil Engineering Practice to a Changing Climate”. Carnegie Mellon University Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor, Costa Samaras, served as one of the lead authors in the publication. Costa Samaras will be in attendance at the conference and will present on the publication and the overall impacts of climate change on regional infrastructure.
  • The afternoon will include an international case study from Amsterdam, Netherlands. Andre Struker from Waternet will provide groundbreaking waste to energy strategies that are transforming the way cities think about climate impacts and infrastructure.
  • Lively audience breakout sessions and panel discussions will be conducted with speakers.
  • Poster sessions from area university students along with the first ever Scholarship Award for Best Student Poster.
We look forward to your attendance on Thursday, May 19th regarding an important topic for the future of the Pittsburgh 


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