Déjà vu all over again

June 2013 » Columns » FIRM THOUGHTS
David F. Evans, P.E., P.L.S.

It has been 17 years since I last wrote an article for CE News. Maybe this piece is Cicada News, the 17-year cycle until I emerge again. When Mark Zweig kindly wrote about the "Chronicles of an engineer" in the March issue's "From the Publisher" column, it created a flurry of activity at Amazon where my short book, "Achieving Zero" is published and available. Well, maybe "flurry" is a little overstated, but a few people did step up and order a copy, and they were not my relatives!

David Evans, P.E., PLS, F.ASCE,
is the founder (1976), Chairman Emeritus, and a member of the board of David Evans Enterprises, Inc., the holding company for David Evans and Associates (www.deainc.com), a multidisciplinary professional services firm headquartered in Portland, Ore. He can be contacted at: david.evans@zweigwhite.com.

So now Mark has provided me the opportunity to again see my name in this fine journalistic endeavor by contributing some thoughts on the incredible importance of civil engineers to our world. Actually, without us civil engineer guys and gals, the world would end — almost overnight! No other profession, career, endeavor, occupation, or job would exist without the work of civil engineers. An overstatement? I don't think so. There are no items of work or effort that do not rely on some level of engineering excellence and creativity.

Ever since we humans began to think that life could be improved in some manner, engineers designed and built the improvement. Since the first primitive engineers created essential things like tools, the wheel, a shelter, a trail, a water well or source, and such, engineers have been working continuously to improve the quality of all our lives. And we have been at it so long that of course we are taken for granted. Rome was not built in a day, but it was built by engineers.

From turning on your shower in the morning to turning off your TV and lights at the end of your day, these common efforts have civil engineering written all over them. I have suggested in print (my article from 17 years ago) that the civil engineers that provide you with water for your shower could receive at least an hour a week of water appreciation time by shutting your water off so you would understand that it does not come directly from the rain to your faucet. Shutting down the power grid for just a few minutes a week would get a lot of attention and maybe provide a little respect for the engineers who keep the power grid in place and keep your lights on.

These two examples of the wonder of civil engineers could help everyone understand and celebrate our works. An interesting element of this celebration is the fact that civil engineers really enjoy creating these works. My wife and three children did not seem very impressed when I would point out curbs and gutters designed by me when they went with me on a Sunday drive, but I did take pride seeing each foot of this small piece of our infrastructure. Telling them about storm drains, sewers, water lines, fiber optic cables, and other underground wonders that had evolved from my pen, pencil, and even a crow quill pen in my first years was even more uninteresting — boring — to them. But to me, and I think to all civil engineers, we take pride in the wonders that we have imagined, conceived, designed, and brought forth to civilization. So it may make it enough to just know we do good works.

Nevertheless, when important, knowledgeable, and famous people comment on our efforts, I send the message out to all I can:

"His is a profession where he has the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of sciences to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone, or metal, or energy. There it brings jobs to men. Then it adds more and better houses. Thus it spreads progress and opportunity over the land. This is the engineer's high privilege among professions."

It would be nice if presidents since Herbert Hoover said words as kind and thoughtful about us, but you take what you can get. We civil engineers already know... we make the whole world turn!

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