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Creating Resilient Infrastructure Through Smart Client Collaboration

The Standards of the Past ‘Need to be Challenged,’ Says HDR’s Sustainability Director 

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Michaella Wittmann

How can infrastructure be created, managed and upgraded to withstand the challenges of global climate change? What role do engineers on infrastructure projects play? The American Society of Civil Engineers and Civil Engineering magazine recently convened a panel of industry experts to discuss the issue at ASCE’s International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure. Michaella Wittmann, our director of sustainability and resiliency, was on the five-member invitation-only panel. 

It’s imperative for engineers to understand that “the standards that we designed to in the past need to be challenged and rewritten to address the changing climate and demands of today’s infrastructure needs,” Wittmann said at the event. 

Wittmann, ENV SP, LEED AP, works to make sure we discuss resiliency needs with all of our infrastructure clients. We introduce our resiliency framework plan to clients to make sure we are asking them the right questions about resiliency and what it means to them. Our goal is to make sure first that the conversation happens and then to identify the specific outcomes our clients need. From there, we can put our interdisciplinary teams to work implementing the goals of our clients and their communities. 

Collaboration and cooperation are key to these conversations. Wittmann emphasized that clients or a representative for clients need to be deeply involved in sustainability discussions for them to be impactful. She cited the design of HDR’s global headquarters, which opened in late 2018. “We had our developer at the table, we had our facility manager at the table, we had our building’s day-to-day operations manager at the table. They all had a stake and contributed to the success in achieving our sustainability goals.” Ensuring that the right people are involved in the sustainability and resiliency conversation are important to ensuring an initiative’s success.

Read the whole panel discussion in ‘Leadership Required,’ in the February 2020 edition of Civil Engineering magazine.