In January 2016, Robert Traver, PhD, PE, D.WRE, F.EWRI, F.ASCE, MSCE ’82, director of both the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership and the Villanova Center for the Advancement of Sustainability in Engineering, attended an exclusive American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Sustainability Summit in Herndon, Va. Fewer than 100 infrastructure thought leaders were invited to the summit to discuss the current state of the industry, the urgency for change, the impediments to achieving a sustainable future and the actions required going forward to transform the very basis of critical infrastructure development. The goal was to “develop a roadmap for the civil engineering profession to transform how infrastructure is conceived, designed and delivered to enable a sustainable future.”
The event was meant to build on ASCE’s “Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025,” which focuses on the need for civil engineers to take on leadership roles to improve the world’s sustainability. Executive Director Tom Smith, ENV SP, CAE, F.ASCE, writes, “My dream is that society will understand and appreciate the critical role of civil engineers in creating a sustainable world and enhancing our global quality of life.”
Dr. Traver, who has been a part of the Water Resources and Environmental Engineering program at Villanova since 1988, was selected to attend the summit as a result of his extensive work in the sustainability of infrastructure. He has hosted or participated in many similar events, including work with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a follow-up series of workshops on flood mitigation, and more recently, a summit on stormwater issues.
“I’ve really been doing sustainable engineering my whole career, but there are different ways of approaching the problem that the profession is still getting behind,” Dr. Traver explains. “Some people look at sustainability as a completely different topic; I believe sustainability should be a part of everything we do as civil engineers.”
According to Dr. Traver, the ASCE Summit was a success. Much was accomplished toward the goal of a more sustainable world, particularly addressing legislation that inhibits engineers’ ability to create more resilient sustainable infrastructure.
“A lot of people are scared to express opinions about things such as global warming. As an engineer, I won’t say the cause doesn’t matter, but we have to deal with it—we’re the solution,” says Dr. Traver. “We need to be much more upfront about addressing these issues.”