A Vision for the Futureof Structural Engineeringand Structural Engineers:A case for changeA Board of GovernorsTask Committee PaperOctober 16, 2013

SEI Vision for the FutureOctober 16, 2013Table of ContentsPART I—Introduction and Goal . 3PART II – The Challenges Going Forward. 7PART III – Vision of the Future . 12PART IV – Bridging the Gap . 17PART V – Recommendations for SEI Board of Governors Action . 32APPENDIX A - 2013 Firm Leader Survey . 35APPENDIX B - 2013 Design and Construction Leader One-on-One Interviews . 412

SEI Vision for the FutureOctober 16, 2013PART I - Introduction and GoalBACKGROUNDThe Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is aunique and vibrant community of more than 20,000 members. The mission of SEI is to advanceand serve the structural engineering profession. To that end, the SEI Board of Governors (theBoard) believes that serving the profession includes stewardship of its future—establishing avision and acting upon that vision to ensure the health and vitality of the profession throughcarefully selected strategic initiatives.The path to the future of the structural engineering profession includes defining the vision forthe future, understanding the current practices and challenges, and identifying the way forwardto bridge the gap.THE 2008 SEI VISION STATEMENTIn 2008, the Board met and put forth the following strategic vision for the profession 25 yearsinto the future:In 2033, the Structural Engineering profession will be: A unique, fully engaged profession with a strong identity; Recognized for the contribution the profession makes to–public safety and risk management,–economic and sustainable use of resources,–the use of innovative technologies, and–the creation of inspiring structures; Stewards of the built environment; and Attractive to the best and brightest.At that time, the goal was to envision the desired characteristics for the structural engineeringprofession at large. The stated vision statement represented the long view of 25 years into thefuture. Three years after it met to establish the above statement, the Board met again to buildupon the strategic vision of 2008 and specifically to identify topics and strategic issues that itwould like to consider for action.That effort produced the following four main strategic areas within the broad purview of TheFuture Structural Engineer, which constitute high-priority initiatives for the Board:3

SEI Vision for the FutureOctober 16, 2013(1) Expectations and Role of the Future Structural Engineer Strategic Issue: The tools available to structural engineers are rapidly replacingworkforce with automation in many tasks traditionally done by structural engineers.This evolution presents an opportunity, if not a mandate, to transform structuralengineering education, training, and practice in ways that will foster an enduringand creative profession. Desired Outcome: Explore and define what the structural engineering professionlooks like for the next generation of structural engineers, including the path foreducation, practical knowledge gain, and technology applications that will andshould exist throughout a career.(2) Structural Engineer Licensing Strategic Issue: Increases in complexity of structural design responsibility, includingadvances in building codes and standards, design aids and tools such as computerprograms, project delivery methods, and construction materials, could underminethe profession’s ability to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public fromunqualified and inexperienced professionals designing inadequate structures. Desired Outcomes: Enact legislation for structural engineering licensurerequirements in all jurisdictions by creating a plan for working proactively with localengineers, stakeholders, and engineering organizations, and developing resourcessuch as statistical data, white papers, and case studies to support the efforts of localstructural engineers.(3) Continuing Education Strategic Issue: Lack of a governing body and inconsistencies in continuing educationofferings and mandatory requirements dilute the benefits of continuing educationfor practicing structural engineers. Desired Outcome: Outline a comprehensive approach to education after graduation,including expectations for mentoring and formal courses.(4) International Links and Globalization Strategic Issue: Advances in technology and increasingly interdependent economieshave changed the way structural engineers deliver their services; the rate of changeis accelerating, and SEI needs to develop a proactive approach to educate, train andaccredit structural engineers in this changing global environment. Desired Outcomes: Establish an international and diverse working group to developa path towards global structural engineering accreditation standards. Develop aseries of short white papers on the opportunities and constraints for structuralengineering projects in emerging markets, as well as opportunities for Americanstructural engineers pursuing work internationally. Provide leadership for the4

SEI Vision for the FutureOctober 16, 2013development of a strong structural engineering community in Africa.Maintain/strengthen the SEI/ASCE brand name internationally.The Board recognized that the strategic areas are interrelated; all of them demanding a clearpicture of the qualifications future structural engineers will need to function effectively in avibrant profession. To investigate those qualifications, the Board appointed a Task Committee tostudy changes impacting the structural engineering profession, and to provide background andpresent ideas for change, as well as recommendations for action by the Board.The members of the Task Committee on the Qualifications of Future Structural Engineers (theTask Committee), and the authors of this paper, are as follows:Stan Caldwell, P.E., Stan R. Caldwell, P.E., SECBDonald Dusenberry, P.E., Task Committee Chair, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc.Jennifer Goupil, P.E., Structural Engineering Institute of ASCECherylyn Henry, P.E., T.Y. Lin International GroupKeith Hjelmstad, Ph.D., Arizona State UniversityJohn Hooper, S.E., Magnusson Klemencic AssociatesJim Malley, S.E., Degenkolb EngineersThe Task Committee convened its first meeting at the 2012 Structures Congress in Chicago, IL onMarch 29, 2012. It met in person five additional times and conducted five conference callmeetings. In addition, the Task Committee conducted two industry surveys.The Firm Leader Survey was open to structural engineering firm leaders, and was designed totest hypotheses of some of the current practices and assumptions about the following topics:internships, mentoring/coaching, training, professional registration exams and organizationmembership, current academic training, post-academic training, and hiring trends, as well asexpectations for change in industry in the next 10-30 years.This was an online survey that the Task Committee developed and deployed to 2,258 membersof SEI who self-identified as president, owner, vice-president, director, principal, chief engineer,or similar. Additionally, NCSEA deployed the survey invitation to 7,807 members who selfidentified as the above categories as well as project manager, project engineer, and seniorstructural engineer. In total, 10,065 members were invited to participate and the surveyreceived a total of 352 completed responses, which is a 3.5% response rate.Our interpretation of the results of this survey is in Appendix A to this paper.The Design and Construction Leader One-on-One Interviews surveyed design and constructionindustry leaders from all regions of the United States to obtain their vision of the future of theoverall design and construction industry as well as the future of the structural engineeringprofession.5

SEI Vision for the FutureOctober 16, 2013The Task Committee developed the list of potential interviewees to represent leaders fromstructural engineering and architecture, as well as owners, developers, contractors, industryrepresentatives, and a municipal building official. In all, the Task Committee interviewed thirtythree individuals over a two-month period. The interviews were generally conducted bytelephone after the Task Committee provided the interviewees with a brief summary of the TaskCommittee’s efforts along with a list of interview questions.Our interpretation of the results of this survey is in Appendix B to this paper.The Task Committee used its research into trends impacting the profession, interview results,and its own deliberations to develop a picture of qualifications structural engineers of the futurewill need in order to respond to changes that are happening now and will continue in the future.The Task Committee developed this picture into the recommendations contained herein foraction by the Board.6

SEI Vision for the FutureOctober 16, 2013PART II - The Challenges Going ForwardStructural engineering has enjoyed a brilliant and iconic past. Signature bridges, high-risebuildings, and long-span roofs over sports facilities stand as testaments to the work of structuralengineers. However, much of the work of structural engineers is hidden by façade or otherwiseexists so commonly in our experience that we do not notice it.As a mature profession, we have been subject to the subtle and not-so-subtle forces that haveshaped the nature of the work we do and the work we aspire to do. The profession of structuralengineering, like many others, has endured extraordinary challenges in recent years, both withinthe United States and world-wide. That pressure has served to expose some of thevulnerabilities of the profession and to open a new willingness to imagine the future. Today wesee ourselves in a shrinking space because many of the technical tasks that a structural engineerused to do are now being done automatically by computers or completed overseas. We havefurther limited the space by developing standards and codes that attempt to define the designparameters of upwards of 95% of the structures being built today. Some engineers havedeveloped niche specialties in areas outside the scope of prescriptive standards and codes, suchas performance-based design, multi-hazard design, and performance monitoring. They will enjoybright futures if they are able to maintain cutting-edge skills that continue to be in demand.Other niche specialties will emerge as technology evolves.Compounding the shrinking space, the educational system has not changed much in the pastseveral decades and, therefore, new graduates entering the profession today are not ideallyprepared. Additionally, there is palpable concern that the best and brightest young people arebecoming less interested in structural engineering as a career.As a result of the path taken thus far, the structural engineering profession currently faces manychallenges in areas such as education, licensure, technology, globalization, innovation, andleadership. Those challenges are also avenues of great opportunity. The current state in each ofthese areas is outlined below as a preamble to the discussion of how we may move forward.Education: Undergraduate education of engineers has evolved under a tension created by anincreasing body of knowledge pulling against a steady drive to grant undergraduate degrees inall academic majors within a period of only four years. This evolution has taken place while theprofession has become detached from the formal educational process. Nearly two-thirds ofsenior structural engineers have no knowledge of any academic programs beyond their ownpersonal experience.1 This disconnect is further exacerbated by the primacy of the researchmission at top universities that has distanced the research frontier from mainstreamprofessional practice and has left undergraduate curricula largely unchanged for decades. The12013 Firm Leader Survey Summary, Appendix A7

SEI Vision for the FutureOctober 16, 2013drive to reduce degree requirements has been met more with resistance than with innovation;the process of curricular change has been more like chiseling than reinvention.The accreditation process has been a double-edged sword for engineering, but has seen somemajor improvements over the past decade through outcomes-based accreditation. ABET hasbecome a driving force for curricular change and is likely the sole reason that any educationalbreadth, or focus on “soft skills,” is present in engineering education today. The relationshipbetween the top engineering research universities and ABET has been strained. Consequently,many curricular changes are implemented through forces or fears associated with losingaccreditation and, as such, are often not embraced by the faculty that must implement them.Structural engineering as an identifiable profession suffers from there being few formalprograms at either the undergraduate or graduate level with the name Structural Engineering2.Structural engineering is traditionally a subset of civil engineering. Many civil engineeringgraduate programs have identifiable structural engineering focus areas at the master’s level.The requisite level of education in structural engineering has long been dictated by marketdemand. Structural engineering firms with more than 10 employees tend to hire primarily at themaster’s degree level, although the bachelor’s degree continues to be a