By: Philip Taylor, civil engineering student
Denver’s booming construction scene took center stage at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Annual Convention last weekend at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Denver. In addition, CU Denver students hosted ASCE leaders, networked with industry peers and attended dozens of educational sessions at the three-day event.
ASCE’s decision to hold its 2018 convention on CU Denver’s doorstep offered students unique access to the industry’s top leaders and innovators such as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn. Student attendees also had the opportunity to take behind-the-scenes tours of some of Denver’s biggest construction projects, including the Platte to Park Hill stormwater systems project and CDOT’s Central-70 project to overhaul and widen Interstate 70 through north Denver.
CU Denver made its own mark on the convention by hosting ASCE’s newest president, Robin Kemper, P.E., on Wednesday, Oct. 10. As ASCE president, Kemper leads the nation’s oldest engineering society. ASCE represents roughly 150,000 civil engineers in 177 countries; publishes important civil engineering literature such as the ASCE 7 standard for design loads, among many others; and is a leading organizer of educational events like this weekend’s convention as well as monthly technical dinners in Denver.
Kemper last Wednesday had breakfast with CU Denver’s ASCE Student Chapter officers and faculty advisor, Dr. David Mays, as well as Dr. Caroline Clevenger. Kemper discussed the important role ASCE student chapters play in connecting students to working engineers. She also discussed her job as a senior risk engineering consultant at Zurich Services Corp., where she advises owners, designers and contractors on professional liability, builder’s risk, risk management and best management practices. While designers and contractors play different roles in civil projects, the success of one depends on the success of the other, Kemper said. Effective communication and best practices among designers and contractors are key to limiting risks at the construction site.
ASCE President Robin Kemper (first row, second from left) joined CU Denver students and faculty for breakfast on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
Kemper later toured the CU Denver campus and gave an hour-long presentation to Dr. Heidi Brothers’ Construction Engineering Systems course. She urged students to take full advantage of the convention’s educational sessions, tours and networking opportunities.
“Meet as many different people as you can,” Kemper said. “And talk to us gray-hairs.”
Kemper encouraged students to stick with ASCE after they graduate and consider becoming politically active. ASCE faces challenges nationwide in retaining its young members. As an incentive to graduates, ASCE offers free memberships to civil engineers during their first year in the workforce and graduated membership fees in the years that follow, Kemper said. She highlighted ASCE’s professional connections, its social and community service events, and its political lobbying on infrastructure matters. ASCE members “speak as one voice,” to policy makers in Washington, D.C., and at statehouses across the nation, Kemper said. Bills such as the Water Resources Development Act, which last week passed the Senate and authorizes billions of dollars in investments in civil works projects, help drive construction of infrastructure that improves the safety and welfare of the public.
“We’ve got your back,” Kemper said of ASCE’s advocacy work. “Public policy helps drive the future of our infrastructure and how we help the public.”
Kemper speaks to the Construction Engineering Systems course on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
ASCE also supports construction engineering professionals, Kemper said. For example, ASCE’s Construction Institute offers construction professionals the opportunity to share best practices with their peers and take part in technical activities and conferences as well as the development of standards. The Construction Institute – whose goal is to improve communication within the engineering and construction industry, improve construction practices and burnish the image of the construction industry — is one of nine ASCE institutes that provide resources to members in specialty areas.
“You’re going to need to continue your education throughout your lives,” Kemper told students. In addition to passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, Kemper recommended student consider pursuing Envision credentials. Envision, which is a certification and training program supported by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, promotes sustainable approaches to planning, designing, constructing and operating infrastructure projects.
Sustainability was a key driver of the Platte to Park Hill Stormwater Systems Project, which seeks to protect Denver residents from extreme flooding while improving water quality in the South Plate River watershed. The project was one of the construction site tours advertised at the ASCE convention. Platte to Park Hill is a $298 million project for the City and County of Denver that will recontour the City Park Golf Course to intercept storm water; create additional stormwater detention at Park Hill; build a mile-long open drainage channel through north Denver for flood relief and recreation; and install massive below-ground conduits to safely convey stormwater to the South Platte River in Globeville. The City Park Gold Course phase of the project was procured as a design-build contract and awarded to Saunders Construction. Work began in late 2017, and the course is on schedule to reopen in summer 2019. The broader Platte to Park Hill project faces many unique construction challenges associated with building in an urban environment, including land acquisition, environmental risks, traffic management and community outreach.
A major storm sewer at the Platte to Park Hill project. Photo courtesy of Molly Trujillo.
The ASCE convention underscored the importance of continuing education in the civil engineering profession as well as the need for good communication among civil engineering designers, project managers and contractors. It reinforced the need for innovation to ensure civil engineers continue to protect the safety, health and welfare of the public.