Sustainability in practice today

June 2009 » Columns
On April 21 during the inaugural Civil Engineers’ Summit & Expo in Los Angeles, several attendees came together to discuss sustainability issues, the popularity of this design approach, and what the future holds for green design. I was delighted to have such diverse perspectives represented during this roundtable. Below are remarks made by each participant during the discussion:
Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.

On April 21 during the inaugural Civil Engineers’ Summit & Expo in Los Angeles, several attendees came together to discuss sustainability issues, the popularity of this design approach, and what the future holds for green design. I was delighted to have such diverse perspectives represented during this roundtable. Below are remarks made by each participant during the discussion:

Douglas R. Failing, P.E.
, district director, California Department of Transportation, doug.failing@dot.ca.gov
"The sustainability issue for me is the operations piece of it … I’m very concerned with [the financing] … I’m moving more people out of the car, that’s less people driving, that’s less money going into the gas tax system. That’s our whole method of financing right now, whether it’s operations or anything … nothing state wide, nothing nationwide that’s addressing that… To get to sustainability and the shift that we all know needs to happen, we have to make [financing the transportation system] sustainable. So we have to figure out if it’s going to be the excise tax, is it indexing, or some other thing that happens, and how do we market that?"

Keyvan Fotoohi, Ph.D., G.E., principal engineer, MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc., kfotoohi@mactec.com
"In general, sustainability is the conserve of energy and material. And we have seen a lot of using—wasting material and energy everywhere in the world.

"We needed a shock so everyone gets to the position to be a little careful about using energy and material. Because of this economy, I think this is the perfect time to educate people. We may never have this chance again … They will listen; we can save money, save energy. The reality and time are all matching together. Sustainability, I think, has a very good feature."

Jacob Lipa, P.E.
, president, Psomas, jlipa@psomas.com
"In our case, I think the sustainability movement—if you want to call it a movement—is here to stay. … People want it. There is a huge demand by the buyers. I don’t think it is anymore an issue whether we will have sustainability or not. The issue is more of how are we going to learn to do it better, be more efficient with more ideas."

Samuel I. Schwartz, P.E.
, president and CEO, Sam Schwartz Engineering, sschwartz@samschwartz.com
"Nothing like [LEED] quite exists for transportation projects, nor water projects and others… We as a profession ought to be thinking about that. Occasionally, I’ve gotten a few people together to think how we can give grading for designing a road, to give some star to that: ’It’s a platinum road,’ ’It’s a silver road.’ There is something lacking in our industry.

"To us, what sustainability means is fewer people driving, more people in transit and biking, and other kinds of things and how we design roads. But there isn’t a good cookbook that matches what sustainability quite means. And in fact, there are arguments. … We’re split in the transportation community with our environmental colleagues. Either we’re not getting it or they’re not getting it, or somewhere in the middle. I think a lot more has to be done in that arena to define sustainability for at least my field of transportation engineering and planning. … There is nothing called, ’LEED Transportation.’ … That would be terrific."

Paul LaCiura, P.E., vice president, Mollenhauer, placiura@mollenhauergroup.com
Regarding the impetus for applying sustainable design for public and private projects: "We address sustainability for every project we do in the L.A. area. … From a public standpoint, we are working on, for related companies, the Civic Park project. … Gloria Molina is the councilwoman on that project, and she demands that we incorporate sustainability into that particular project.

From a private project sector standpoint, we are involved with the Dodgers, the Next 50 Years project there. … Frank McCourt (the owner) has demanded that we consider sustainability from a very, very high level for the entire design team. … In that case, we’re talking about a private entity and, from the top down, their goal is to be the greenest stadium in the United States. So it’s good to have a couple clients like that because we don’t have to be the hero of this particular type of approach from an environmental standpoint."

Michael J. Yost,
vice president and general counsel, Terracon Consultants, Inc., mjyost@terracon.com
"Don’t you think that in the short-term future the green and sustainability movements are going to have to be basically championed by the public sector though? Right now, the private-sector construction projects are cutting cost at every corner. With the stimulus money and the transportation infrastructure money coming out of Washington, it’s really going to be counting on the public entities pushing this ball forward in the next couple of years."


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