CSCE launches sustainable infrastructure campaign with new award for governmental leadership

As part of a major campaign to raise awareness about Canada’s deteriorating public infrastructure and the importance of building in a more sustainable fashion in the future, the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) has announced that it is sponsoring the Award for Government Leadership in Sustainable Infrastructure.

The Award will recognize those in the public sector who, through a project or program, are building for the future. It will be presented for the first time at the CSCE annual conference in June, 2012 in Edmonton.

Nomination forms and terms of reference are available at Applications close December 15, 2011 for this year’s Award.

Randy Pickle, CSCE President, notes that some 80 per cent of the public infrastructure in this country is close to the end of its useful life. “That’s why we’ve got to get people talking about this issue, and why it’s so critical that CSCE  take a leadership role in making sustainable infrastructure a local, provincial and national cause,” says Pickle.

“The next generation of public infrastructure must be more durable, be more adaptable to future needs and minimize environmental and social impacts. That’s what we mean by sustainable infrastructure – as opposed to the disposable infrastructure we have been building for the last half century. Civil Engineers used to build for the long term. We can do that again, given the chance by public sector decision makers.”

Doug Salloum, the Society’s Executive Director, notes that the need to build things right, and the need to build the right things, are pressing issues. “We will be spending billions of dollars of public money to rebuild our infrastructure. We have to do better this time around.”

In 2007, a report for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimated that the municipal infrastructure deficit in Canada – the amount government would have to spend to rehabilitate existing infrastructure as well as build new infrastructure in order to meet society’s needs – was some $238 billion.

Combined with similar deficits at the federal and provincial levels, the figure exceeded $400 billion at the time. It is now estimated that the infrastructure deficit has ballooned by another $40 billion over the intervening four years.

In addition to the Award, CSCE is planning a number of other initiatives to raise awareness about these issues. For example, it will commission a number of interdisciplinary case studies of sustainable and unsustainable infrastructure in Canada.

“We’ll start with Montreal’s Champlain and Victoria Bridges,” explains Salloum. “The Champlain Bridge has effectively reached the end of its useful life after only 50 years. The Victoria Bridge has been modified, rebuilt and maintained for more than 150 years. We hope to prove with these case studies that when it comes to infrastructure, decision makers must consider maintenance and replacement costs as well as social and environmental costs – not just the initial construction costs. “

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