American Society of Civil Engineers

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American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
American Society of Civil Engineers logo 2009-present.jpg
Motto A better world by design.
Formation November 5, 1852 (1852-11-05)
Type Engineering Society
Headquarters Reston, Virginia
Official language
Robert D. Stevens, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is a tax-exempt professional body founded in 1852 to represent members of the civil engineering profession worldwide. Based in Reston, Virginia, it is the oldest national engineering society in the United States, with its constitution based on the older Boston Society of Civil Engineers (1848)[1]


ASCE was founded in New York City on November 5, 1852, when twelve engineers—Julius W. Adams, J. W. Ayres, Alfred W. Craven, Thomas A. Emmet, Edward Gardiner, Robert B. Gorsuch, George S. Greene, James Laurie, W. H. Morell, S. S. Post, W. H. Talcott, and W. H. Sidell—met at the offices of the Croton Aqueduct and formed the American Society of Civil Engineers and Architects. It was the first national engineering society created in the United States.[2] In 1869 the "Architects" was dropped from the name, as the architects formed their own society, the American Institute of Architects, in 1857.[3]

As part of understanding the history of civil engineering and promoting the civil engineering profession, a survey of the historic accomplishments of civil engineers is continually conducted by ASCE members. Such reviews of civil engineering accomplishments have produced various lists of the notable categories and projects of the profession.

The 21st century[edit]

During the 1925 Mid-South convention of the ASCE, held in Memphis, Tennessee, engineers and their families were invited on a sightseeing trip aboard two ships. These ships, Choctaw and M.E. Norman, were operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The M.E. Norman, a steamship, capsized and sank in the Mississippi River, resulting in the deaths of 23 passengers and crew, including former ASCE president Paul Howes Norcross.

The prospect of a new millennium led the ASCE to reflect upon the civil engineering achievements of the 20th century with two events. First, the Millennium Challenge in 1999 identified the top-ten "civil engineering achievements that had the greatest positive impact on life in the 20th century", which were to be "broad categories", rather than "individual achievements", which were reserved for the second event. Monuments of the Millennium selected and recognized feats of civil engineering that demonstrated a "combination of technical engineering achievement, courage and inspiration, and a dramatic influence on the development of [their] communities".[4]

The achievements and the monuments that best exemplify them include:


ASCE is the permanent organization representing the civil engineering profession in the United States. Its mission is to "provide essential value to our members and partners, advance civil engineering, and serve the public good". ASCE strives to "facilitate the advancement of technology", "encourage and provide the tools for lifelong learning", promote professionalism, influence public policy, "develop and support civil engineer leaders", and "advocate infrastructure and environmental stewardship".[5]


ASCE is the world's largest publisher of civil engineering information[citation needed] — producing more than 55,000 pages of technical content each year. The ASCE Publications Division produces 33 professional journals (available both in print and online editions), conference proceedings, standards, manuals of practice, committee reports, and monographs. A 200,000-entry civil engineering database is available at their website, along with many other resources for practicing civil engineers, including a complete publications catalog and the ASCE Library, which provides access to more than 600,000 pages of journal articles and proceedings. ASCE also publishes Civil Engineering, the official magazine of the Society; ASCE News; and Geo-Strata.


ASCE's 33 peer-reviewed highly cited journals, including the Journal of Structural Engineering, facilitate the exchange of technical and professional knowledge among civil engineers. Information published in the journals forms an archival record of the technical advances of today's civil engineering profession. The complete volumes from 1990-2006 are available online.


ASCE publishes books on civil engineering research and practice. Prior to publication, each title is peer-reviewed by subject matter experts. The list includes more than 1,500 standards, manuals of practice, committee reports, proceedings, and ASCE press titles.


Civil Engineering, ASCE's monthly magazine, contains articles about significant projects, events, and trends of interest to civil engineers. The mix of articles in each issue is designed to appeal to a broad range of readers, who represent the full spectrum of civil engineering disciplines. Other periodicals include ASCE News which reports on the activities of the Society and Geo-Strata, published on behalf of the Geo-Institute.

Conferences and education[edit]

Each year ASCE hosts over 15 annual and specialty conferences including its annual conference. Each year, the Society holds more than 310 live, face-to-face continuing education seminars and more than 250 live Web seminars on a wide variety of technical and management topics. In addition, the Society has hundreds of distance learning programs available. ASCE offers Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and Professional Development Hours (PDHs) for conferences, seminars and workshops, and most distance learning programs to help professional engineers meet mandatory continuing professional competency requirements in their states.

ASCE offers activities supporting the formal education process of civil engineers.


ASCE also has eight full-service institutes created to serve working professionals working within specialized fields of civil engineering:


More than 6,200 civil engineers and allied professionals serve on numerous technical committees and provide other services that benefit the Society and the profession. The Society's Committee on Technical Advancement (CTA) has 10 Divisions, some of which are further divide into committees.[6] The 10 Divisions include:


Certification is the recognition of attaining advanced knowledge and skills in a specialty area of civil engineering. ASCE offers certifications for engineers who demonstrate advanced knowledge and skills in their area of engineering.

ASCE is an organization accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) that produces consensus standards under direction of the Codes and Standards Activities Committee. Civil Engineering Certification Inc. (CEC), affiliated with ASCE, has been established to support specialty certification academies for civil engineering specialties and is accredited by the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB). The Committee on Critical Infrastructure (CCI) provides vision and guidance on ASCE activities related to critical infrastructure resilience, including planning, design, construction, O&M, and event mitigation, response and recovery.

The ASCE raises money through the ASCE Foundation.

Controversies in New Orleans Levee Investigations[edit]

Press Release Contained Wrong/Conflicting Information[edit]

ASCE provides peer reviews at the request of public agencies and projects as a "means to improve the management and quality of [public agency] services and thus better protect the public health and safety with which they are entrusted".[7][8] In October 2005, after the failures of the federally designed and built levees in Greater New Orleans, Lt Gen Carl Strock P.E., M.ASCE, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested that ASCE create an expert review panel (ERP) to peer review the Corps-sponsored Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET), the body commissioned by the Corps to assess the performance of the hurricane protection system in metro New Orleans. Lawrence Roth P.E., F.ASCE, Deputy Executive Director of the ASCE led the ERP development, served as the panel's Chief of Staff and facilitated the panel's interaction with IPET.[9] The role of the ERP—composed of 14 specialists who possess a range of technical expertise—was to provide an independent technical review of the IPET's activities and findings. Roth stated at a National Research Council meeting in New Orleans, that "an independent review panel" such as the ERP "ensure[s] that the outcome is a robust, credible and defensible performance evaluation".[10] All members of the ERP panel received Outstanding Civilian Service Medals from Lt. Gen Strock on February 12, 2007.[9]

On June 1, 2007, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued its External Peer Review (ERP) report,[11] and also an accompanying press release.[12] However, the press release was considered controversial because it contained information that was not present in the report, included information that conflicted with the report, and minimized the Army Corps' involvement in the catastrophe. The press release stated, “Even without breaching, Hurricane Katrina’s rainfall and surge overtopping would have caused extensive and severe flooding—and the worst loss of life and property loss ever experienced in New Orleans.” Meanwhile, the ERP report stated that had levees and pump stations not failed, “far less property loss would have occurred and nearly two-thirds of deaths could have been avoided.” This determination was on page 39 of an 80-page report. The ASCE administration was immediately criticized by The Times-Picayune for an apparent attempt to minimize and understate the role of the Army Corps in the flooding.[13]

Dr. Raymond Seed Submits Ethics Complaint[edit]

In October 2007, Dr. Ray Seed, University of California-Berkeley civil engineering professor and ASCE member submitted an ethics complaint to the ASCE alleging that the Corps of Engineers, with the help of the ASCE, sought to minimize the Corps' mistakes in the flooding, intimidate anyone who tried to intervene, and delay the final results until the public's attention had turned elsewhere.[14] The Corps acknowledged receiving a copy of the letter but has refused to comment until after the ASCE's Committee on Professional Conduct (CPC), led by Rich Hovey, comments on the complaint.[15] It took over a year for the ASCE to announce the results of the CPC.[16] When the results of the self-study were finally announced, the ASCE panel did not file any charges of ethical misconduct. They blamed their errors in their June press release on its creation by "staff level and not by review panel members."[17]

ASCE Convenes Two Review Panels to Examine Allegations of Ethics Breaches[edit]

On November 14, 2007, ASCE announced the appointment of retired U.S. Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, R‑N.Y., to lead an independent task force of outside experts to review how the professional organization participates in engineering studies of national significance.[18] ASCE President David Mongan said the review is aimed at addressing criticisms of the organization's role in assisting the Army Corps of Engineers-sponsored investigation of Katrina failures. President David Mongan, in a letter to the Times Picayune, assured the citizens of metro New Orleans that ASCE takes "this matter very seriously and that appropriate actions are being taken".[19]

The results of the external probe released on September 12, 2008, recommended that the society should immediately take steps to remove the potential for conflict of interest in its participation in post-disaster engineering studies.[20] The report made several major recommendations, the most important being that funding for peer reviews over $1 million should come from a separate source, like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The report also recommended that the ASCE Headquarters should facilitate but not control the assessment teams, and that dissemination of information to the public and press not be under the extremely tight controls that Dr. Seed and his team experienced. The report concluded that ASCE should draw up an ethics policy to eliminate questions of possible conflicts of interest.

On April 6, 2009, the internal probe with the ASCE issued a report that ordered a retraction of the ASCE's June 1, 2007 press release.[17] The panel determined that the press release "inadvertently conveyed a misleading impression regarding the role of engineering failures in the devastation of New Orleans." The release also incorrectly said that surge levels along Mississippi's coastline were higher than water levels caused by a tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, and incorrectly repeated estimates of deaths and property damage that might have occurred in New Orleans if levees and floodwalls hadn't been breached.

Grassroots Group Release Spoof of Relationship Between ASCE and USACE[edit]

On November 5, 2007, New Orleans-based grassroots group led by Sandy Rosenthal released an online Public Service Announcement criticizing the ASCE's close relationship with the United States Army Corps of Engineers.[21] On November 12, 2007, the ASCE asked to remove the video from the internet, threatening the organization with legal action if it did not comply.[22] On November 13, the Times-Picayune reposted the controversial video on their website.[23] Flanked by lawyers with Adams and Reese in the presence of extensive media coverage, the group ignored the threat and reposted the controversial video to YouTube citing Louisiana's Anti-SLAPP statute—a "strategic lawsuit against public participation"—which allows courts to weed out lawsuits designed to chill public participation on matters of public significance.[24] In a response for comment, President David Mongan P.E. replied, "Since the video has already been widely reposted by other organizations, moving forward, we feel our time and expertise are best utilized working to help protect the residents of New Orleans from future storms and flooding.”

Accusations that ASCE used Grant Money from USACE for Disinformation[edit]

In a press conference on March 2008, announced that records obtained in a request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that as early October 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers directed the ASCE and later paid the group more than $1.1 million for its peer review (Grant Number: W912HZ-06-1-0001). claimed the grant also paid for a series of ASCE presentations which the non-profit said were misleading and were an attempt to shift blame away from the corps and onto local levee officials.[25] Members of the ASCE are forbidden from making false or exaggerated statements and also from making statements for an interested party unless this is disclosed. claimed the records showed how the External Peer Review would be done in four “phases.” Phase 1 was research and analysis on the performance of the levees, floodwalls and other important structures. Phase 2 was provision of information on the current system to prevent future flooding. Phase 3 was provision of information to evaluate alternative approaches to flood protection. Phase 4 was transfer information and knowledge gained to a broader audience within Corps and its consultancy community to communicate lessons learned. The group claimed that these records[26] were proof that the powerpoint presentation that the ASCE was routinely giving in 2007 and 2008 were a public relations campaign to repair the corps' reputation.[27] officials responded that the society paid for the powerpoint presentations itself and had not used the grant money from the USACE for that purpose.

Government relations[edit]

ASCE encourages its affiliates to support state and local public and governmental affairs activities, especially through efforts by its grassroots Key Contact program. The Society's federal priority issues for the 110th Congress are clean water, drinking water, and wastewater, math and science education, natural hazards mitigation and infrastructure security, Qualifications Based Selection for engineering services, smart growth/sustainable development and transportation infrastructure. The state priority issues are infrastructure issues, licensing, math and science education, procurement of professional services, smart growth, and transportation infrastructure.[citation needed]

Activities outside the United States[edit]

The ASCE conducts a wide variety of activities outside the United States, supporting its vision of positioning engineers as "global leaders building a better quality of life".[citation needed] ASCE works to share and grow the engineering body of knowledge among civil engineers worldwide and proactively informs engineers of the opportunities and challenges that global developments have on the practice of engineering. The Society serves approximately 14,000 members outside the United States, and provides networking opportunities through ASCE International Sections and Groups, an international program at the Annual Meeting, and other events. ASCE has Agreements of Cooperation with 72 engineering organizations in 59 countries, supports 12 International Sections and 19 International Groups, and participates in a variety of international engineering organizations. International activities span numerous ASCE program areas, including the Institutes and technical committees, who hold international conferences and technical sessions. About half the contributions to ASCE journals come from overseas authors, and half of publication sales are to engineers living outside the United States.[citation needed]

Awards and designations[edit]

ASCE Historical Marker at Philadelphia City Hall.

ASCE sponsors numerous awards for outstanding work in various areas of civil engineering, some of which are based on papers submitted to its many journals. ASCE also designates national and international Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.

World wonders[edit]

In an effort to recognize a contemporary equivalent to the heralded ancient Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the ASCE has designated the following Seven Wonders of the Modern World:[28]

Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) awards[edit]

ASCE holds an annual black-tie event to present the Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) awards. There are four awards: the Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award (OCEA), the Lifetime Achievement Awards, the Henry L. Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research, and the Charles Pankow Award for Innovation.

The Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award (OCEA) has been presented annually since 1960. It "honors the project that best illustrates superior civil engineering skills and represents a significant contribution to civil engineering progress and society".[29] As a project award, it recognizes the team effort of all the engineers involved in completion of the project.

The Lifetime Achievement Award has been presented annually since 1999. It recognizes a lifetime of achievements and accomplishments to five different individual leaders. One award is present in each category of design, construction, government, education, and management.[30]

Wesley W. Horner Award[edit]

Initially created in 1968 by ASCE's Sanitary Engineering Division, the award is named after former ASCE President Wesley W. Horner. The award is given to a recently peer reviewed published paper in the fields of hydrology, urban drainage, or sewerage. Special consideration is given to private practice engineering work that is recognized as a valuable contribution to the field of environmental engineering.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Perspectives in Civil Engineering: Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the American Society of Civil Engineers Jeffrey S. Russell; ASCE Publications, Jan 1, 2003; 392 pages, page 129 "They used the constitution of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, founded four uears earlier, as a framework."
  2. ^ "ASCE Founders' Plaque". Metropolitan Section, American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  3. ^ Beard, Jeffrey L.; et al. (2001). Design-build: planning through development. McGraw-Hill Professional. para. 2.4. ISBN 0-07-006311-7. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c "Top 10 Achievements & Millennium Monuments" (PDF). People and Projects > Projects. American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "Vision, Mission & Goals". American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  6. ^ Technical Areas of the American Society of Civil Engineers., American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved November 13, 2015
  7. ^ Peer Review for Public Agencies American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved November 17, 2007.
  8. ^ ASCE Policy Statement on Peer Review American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  9. ^ a b (March 2007) Members Honored with Outstanding Civil Services Medal American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  10. ^ Roth, Lawrence "Larry", on behalf of ASCE External Review Panel. (March 20, 2007) Meeting 2, New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects, Meeting 2, New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects. New Orleans, LA. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  11. ^ Charles F. Anderson, Jurjan A. Battjes; et al. (2007). "The New Orleans Hurricane Protection System: What Went Wrong and Why" (PDF). American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  12. ^ Joan Buhrman (2007). "Move Beyond Sound-bites and "Armchair" Theories to Make the Nation Safer From Disaster, Engineers Say" (PDF). American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  13. ^ (June 19, 2007) EDITORIAL: Sound bites and spin jobs The Times-Picayune. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  14. ^ Raymond B. Seed (2007). "New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, and the Soul of the Profession" (PDF). New Orleans Times Picayue. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  15. ^ Charpentier, Colley (November 19, 2007). "Critic: Corps tried to thwart inquirty". Times Picayune. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  16. ^ "Levee group slams ASCE investigation". 6 August 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  17. ^ a b Schleifstein, Mark (April 6, 2009). "American Society of Civil Engineers finds no ethical violations in its own Katrina levee review". Times Picayune. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  18. ^ Task force will review engineers' studies-
  19. ^ ASCE is investigating-
  20. ^ Sherwood L. Boehlert, Joseph Bordogna; et al. (September 2008). "Report on Engineering Reviews: Recommendations to the American Society of Civil Engineers" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  21. ^ Levees.Org (November 5, 2007). New Orleans Levee Spin 101 (Youtube Video). New Orleans, LA: 
  22. ^ Baquet, Terry (November 13, 2007). "Engineer group not amused by online spoof of levee review". Times Picayune. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  23. ^ Shea, Dan (November 14, 2007). "Controversial video". Times Picayune. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  24. ^ Betz, Jonathan (December 4, 2007). "Corps/". WWL. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  25. ^ Sandy Rosenthal (August 22, 2011). Elite Engineering Group Does PR Show to Protect Corps of Engineers' Reputation (Youtube Video). New Orleans, LA: 
  26. ^ U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (2006). "Research and Analysis of the Performance of Hurricane and Flood Protection Projects in Southeast Louisiana" (PDF). Department of the Army. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  27. ^ "Katrina Study Findings Presentations". American Society of Civil Engineers. September 2006. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  28. ^ Seven Wonders of the Modern World ASCE. Accessed June 14, 2011.
  29. ^ American Society of Civil Engineers. "ASCE Honors and Awards - Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement". Archived from the original on 29 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  30. ^ American Society of Civil Engineers. "ASCE Honors and Awards - Lifetime Achievement Award". Archived from the original on 29 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  31. ^ Wesley W. Horner Award ASCE. Accessed October 10, 2007.

External links[edit]