Orange County Branch Newsletter

December 2019

ASCE OC Sustainability Committee

Workshop for Sustainability Leaders

By Charlotte Wu, P.E., ENV SP, STP & Tonia Wang, P.E., ENV SP



The ASCE’s International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI) brings together scholars, engineering professionals, and policymakers around the world. This year, Los Angeles hosted the 2019 ICSI at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, a historic-cultural landmark built in 1923 that is in the heart of Los Angeles just a block away from Pershing Square. There would not be a better choice than the Biltmore Hotel for hosting the conference. It hosted several major events in the past, including the Oscars and the 1960 Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kennedy’s acceptance speech. Upon arrival at the hotel lobby, the attendees were submerged in an enormous amount of art, such as murals, sculptures, and tapestries. The glamorous but elegant style invited attendees into each ballroom where the technical sessions were held.

One of the hot topics discussed during the conference was the upcoming 2028 Olympics. Los Angeles will be the host of both the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Building stadiums and facilities to only host the Olympic Games has become an expensive and wasteful investment. How can we prepare for the Olympic Games and accommodations for the spectators without building facilities that will be abandoned or decommissioned after the Olympics? Los Angeles has existing infrastructures that can be reused for major events. Steven Cheung of the LAEDC suggested that instead of building new facilities, we would utilize the existing stadium such as the Rose Bowl and Coliseum. Does the existing transportation network have enough capacity for the spectators to travel to the games and not cause disruption and delay the regional residents’ daily commute? The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)’s Twenty-Eight by ’28 initiative includes potential 28 Metro projects to be completed by the year 2028. The initiative includes projects such as the expansion of the existing light rail lines as well as improvement on existing highway facilities. All these challenges require solutions that are sustainable in the long term and innovation in engineering and project management in order to be ready for the 2028 Olympics.

The main conference officially kicked off on Thursday, November 7th. More than 370 attendees filled up the Crystal Ballroom as the conference chair Mark Norton welcomed everyone. Project poster exhibits were displayed in Biltmore Bowl throughout the whole conference as attendees moved through technical sessions. Some hot topics discussed and presented during the conference are the sea-level rise and storm surge. The conference wrapped up on Saturday, November 9th with a workshop for sustainability leaders.

On Saturday, November 9th, ASCE's Workshop for Sustainability Leaders at the ICSI discussed the obstacles that sustainability professionals and management often face that prevent the delivery of sustainable infrastructure projects. The workshop’s purpose was to present these common obstacles encountered and work in teams to collaborate and identify solutions that promote widespread acceptance and adoption. The event was broken down into presentations, Q&A, breakout group discussions and reporting.

The first presentation was on Early Stakeholder Engagement by Eva Moir, which focused on the obstacles and efforts to involving stakeholders early on in a sustainable infrastructure project.

Following this presentation, Gabe Cira presented a project called the Emerald Tutu. The Emerald Tutu is a coastal resilience infrastructure project located in the Boston harbor consisting of circular disks placed in the water to dampen waves from extreme weather. The major obstacles that were encountered by the project team included finding a base material that would avoid the release of microplastics, funding & stakeholder engagement, and permitting.

The third presentation by Linda Bybee focused on Failures in Regional Environmental Regulations and highlighted Community Ecosystem Service Banks as a means to promote sustainability and by making it meaningful in the community.

The fourth presentation focused on Sustainable Infrastructure Project Delivery from a consultant’s perspective, by Mouna Senhaji. The main idea conveyed in this presentation was investing in sustainability at the early stages of a project, through the use of rating indicators such as Envision and BIM software for autonomous, real-time monitoring on projects.

The fifth presentation focused on stakeholder buy-in on sustainability efforts. Youn Kim, the speaker of this presentation, touched on the challenges of stakeholder buy-in and ideas on how to approach this major obstacle. He focused on how to present values added to a proposal or design.

After the presentations, the audience broke up into five groups and worked with the presenters to address the following topics per each presentation:

  1. Do these challenges persist and how do we mitigate them?
  2. Discuss process to eliminate these obstacles
  3. Address progress and opportunities for sustainable civil infrastructure and engineering practice

The discussion was very insightful with productive conversations between the workshop facilitators, presenters, and attendees. As part of the Stakeholder Buy-In breakout group, some of the main take-aways from the discussion included thinking about how to present a value proposition to the stakeholder. It is important to strategically package the sustainable infrastructure project or improvement as a tangible and feasible solution backed with data, such as cost savings for the entire project lifecycle. It was agreed that different disciplines (ie. roadway improvement and active transportation groups) should work together to determine the net benefit - the overall cost should be equalized by one group’s cost additions and another’s savings. Finally, it is important to approach the stakeholder with a strong understanding of the industry’s and stakeholder’s current business practices and goals, to shape the proposal to clearly communicate “What’s in it for me?” Our job as a sustainability professional is to foster behavior change through developing sustainable and resilient infrastructure; this process does not only involve stakeholders’ interests, engineers’ observations and judgment but also the community input, thus fostering successful and effective collaboration between all.


About the Author

Charlotte Wu is a Professional Civil Engineer, Envision Sustainability Professional, Sustainable Transportation Professional in the field of transportation with AECOM. She currently serves as co-chair for ASCE Orange County Sustainability Committee. Charlotte can be contacted at [email protected].

Tonia Wang is a civil engineer specialized in rail/highway design and sustainability coordination. As a part of HNTB, she is currently working on XpressWest, a high-speed rail line from Southern California to Las Vegas. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley where she obtained a master’s in civil engineering, in the Energy, Civil Infrastructure, and Climate Change graduate program.


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