TCEP 169: Civil Engineers Need To Lead the System of Systems

In this episode of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I talk to Maria Lehman, P.E., F.ASCE, ENV SP, the Director of U.S. Infrastructure at GHD, and an official nominee for the worldwide ASCE President-Elect 2021. Maria will be talking about America's infrastructure, the ASCE Report Card, the needs of the civil engineering profession, and how civil engineers need to lead the system of systems. Engineering Quotes: Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Maria Lehman on How Civil Engineers Need to Lead the System of Systems: The American Society of Civil Engineers unveiled their 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure on March 3rd. Can you share with us some of the results and grades that were given to the different sectors? The Failure to Act: Economic Impacts of Status Quo Investment Across Infrastructure Systems quantifies how the persistent failure to invest in our aging infrastructure impacts the economy. Can you share some of its findings and how it affects the cost to families when we don't invest in infrastructure? How do you successfully deliver mega-projects?  How would you say civil engineers need to lead the system of systems? Do you have any advice for civil engineers out there who are planning to get involved with mega-projects, or who are considering pursuing a career similar to yours? You are a nominee for the ASCE President-Elect 2021. Can you share with us what your vision is as a nominee? Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Leading the Systems of Systems: Things are changing so rapidly in the business world that bringing people together who normally don’t work together is needed. Anytime that you are trying to drive change, you need to have a group of people who are bought into that change. It is different when you work on the public side of things; it’s a different reality with different priorities. Understanding the differences and being able to bridge that communication helps you to be more efficient and effective with clients.  The accumulative average of the America’s Infrastructure Report Card is a C-; it is primarily there because a couple of the electric transmission and rail’s scores are in the B’s because it is privately funded. The Report Card received 2 B’s, 4 C’s, and 11 D’s, and most of the public infrastructure received D’s.  Our infrastructure is not a mid-life crisis, it’s in an old-age crisis. Because it is a system of systems, you see a lot of domino effect. It’s the weakest link that causes the problem, and that is why we do not only need investment, we also need to think about everything being a system of systems.  ASCE has been doing independent economic studies to what the cost of failure is. There were three reports done: Electric transmission  Water Transportation services, as well as composite The composite was released right before the Report Card and detailed that the cost of not investing in our infrastructure is $3,300 per family, per year over the next 10 years. This has to do with things such as delays due to traffic, potholes, and uninterrupted power supply. It is important to know that it is not only you as the individual who is being impacted, but also the cost of your goods. If there is a disruption in the supply chain, you are eventually going to pay for it by paying more for every commodity that you have. These are the kind of conversations we need to be having with people to get moving here.  Managing mega-projects is about having a lot of baseline studies, but it is also about transparency. You need to have regular communication with the communities and the naysayers because you need to understand why they are stopping projects.

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The Civil Engineering Podcast provides engineering career advice and success stories specifically for civil engineers. Civil engineers Anthony Fasano, PE and Christian Knutson, PE host the show and showcase civil engineering projects and professionals. Each show includes an overview of an interesting civil engineering project and an interview with a successful civil engineering professional.