CIVIL ENGINEERING 365 ALL ABOUT CIVIL ENGINEERING



The primary purpose of this editorial is to raise awareness among the membership of ASCE and invite their input on the update of the Environmental Engineering Body of Knowledge (EnvEBoK) being undertaken by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES).As described in Policy Statement 524, “the American Society of Civil Engineers supports licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) to demonstrate an individual’s competency in the breadth of the civil engineering practice” (ASCE 2018). This policy statement highlights a number of important, unique aspects of the discipline of civil engineering and the activities of ASCE. It is recognized that each licensed civil engineer might not share the same breadth and depth of specialty areas. As part of its service to the engineering profession, ASCE is the lead society for ABET accreditation of “civil engineering,” “architectural engineering,” “construction engineering,” and similarly named programs (ABET 2021).Commonly cited specialty areas in civil engineering include environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering, and water-resources engineering, among others. AAEES is the lead society for ABET accreditation of “environmental engineering and similarly named engineering programs” (ABET 2021).These realities beg a question that has existed since the origin of the field of environmental engineering, namely, who decides what it means to be an environmental engineer (Boyce 1963). Do baccalaureate students of civil engineering who follow an environmental engineering specialty have a claim to the title environmental engineer? Should the title environmental engineer be reserved exclusively for those who have invested the entirety of their baccalaureate studies to environmental engineering? Should mentored professional practice beyond the conferral of an ABET-accredited baccalaureate degree coupled with subsequent professional licensure in environmental engineering be used to confer the title environmental engineer? Should Policy Statement 524 guide the use of the title environmental engineer (i.e., “ASCE also supports post-PE credentialing that attests to a Professional Engineer’s expertise in a civil engineering specialty area”)? Regardless of the path taken, all who view themselves as environmental engineers hold paramount the health, safety, and welfare of the public (ASCE 2020; AAEES 2021).A useful step in answering the question of what makes an environmental engineer is to compare standardized definitions of various engineering disciplines. In 2009, AAEES published the first edition of the EnvEBoK (AAEES 2009). As described in the executive summary, EnvEBoK “… defines the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to practice environmental engineering at the professional level … [and] includes 18 outcomes grouped as Fundamental, Enabling Knowledge and Skills, and Professional Outcomes.” Each outcome includes a brief definition, a detailed explanation, statements corresponding to levels of achievement, and a listing of knowledge domains.In a parallel effort to the development of the EnvEBoK, the civil engineering community developed the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge (CEBoK). Originally published in 2004 (ASCE 2004), updated in 2008 (ASCE 2008), and most recently updated in 2019, the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge: Preparing the Future Civil Engineer includes 21 foundational, technical, and professional practice learning outcomes for individuals entering professional practice (ASCE 2019).One approach to comparing the EnvEBok and the CEBok is to examine definitions of core competencies of all engineers, such as the definition of design. In the EnvEBoK, the definition of design is “…of a system, component or process to meet desired needs related to a problem appropriate to environmental engineering” (AAEES 2009). In the CEBoK, the definition of design is “…a decision-making process, often iterative, in which mathematics, natural sciences, and fundamentals of engineering are applied to convert resources to meet a stated need” (ASCE 2019).The EnvEBoK uses terms from Bloom’s taxonomy of the cognitive domain (which categorizes competencies into the hierarchy of “remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create” (AAEES 2009). These are used to describe the level of accomplishment in learning design, which corresponds to increasing level of education and experience (AAEES 2009). For example, after completing a baccalaureate degree in environmental engineering, a graduate should be able to “analyzepredictable situations to determine design needs and requirements” (AAEES 2009) (emphasis added). After completing a master’s degree (or 30 semester credits or equivalent post baccalaureate), a student should be able to “analyze real world situations to determine design needs and requirements” (emphasis added). After 4 years of professional experience, an engineer-in-training should “evaluate design proposals appropriate to environmental engineering as part of the peer review process” (emphasis added).In the CEBoK, at the level of an undergraduate, the demonstrated ability includes “apply the engineering design process to a given set of requirements and constraints to solve a complex civil engineering problem,” whereas the level of a mentored experience includes “analyze a complex civil engineering project to determine design requirements and constraints” (ASCE 2019, emphasis added).A cursory comparison of these definitions of design and these statements of cognitive knowledge according to Bloom’s taxonomy demonstrate substantial differences. For example, every environmental engineering design must include an explicit focus on solving a problem related to the natural environment, whereas civil engineering design may focus on the natural environment or any aspect of solving a problem related to the built environment. Environmental engineers must be capable of achieving Bloom’s level of analysis on receipt of the baccalaureate degree, whereas Bloom’s level of analysis is not achieved until after a mentored experience following the baccalaureate degree in civil engineering. And we note that Bloom’s level of create is not included in either the EnvEBoK or the CEBoK. One must ask whether these differences are real and meaningful, or if the language used in these definitions lacking in precision (i.e., are environmental engineers expected to perform design to a higher level of knowledge as compared to civil engineers). Ultimately, the question must be asked whether the public is adequately protected in either case if the highest level of cognitive knowledge (i.e., create) is not included in either case. Answers to these questions are among the types of input that we seek from the membership of ASCE.AAEES is undertaking an effort to update the EnvEBoK to consider these and other questions (Oerther et al. 2021a, b, forthcoming). Over the coming year, we will invite input from a range of stakeholders, including members and affiliates of the various organizations designated by ABET as cooperating societies in the development and maintenance of ABET program criteria for environmental and similarly named engineering programs. In addition to ASCE, these include the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers; American Society of Mechanical Engineers; SAE International; and Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (ABET 2021).With an origin that traces back to 1952 as the Joint Committee for the Advancement of Sanitary Engineering, AAEES looks forward to engaging with our partners, including ASCE, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), among others (Boyce 1963). The current EnvEBoK, which was published in 2009, will serve as the starting point for our evolving discussions. As we have already invited others (i.e., Oerther et al. 2021a, b, forthcoming), we invite you to reach out to the authors of this editorial, or to other members and leaders of AAEES, to engage in the process of updating the EnvEBoK.References AAEES (American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists). 2009. Environmental engineering body of knowledge. Annapolis, MD: AAEES. ABET. 2021. Criteria for accrediting engineering programs. Baltimore, MD: ABET. ASCE. 2004. Civil engineering body of knowledge for the 21st century: Preparing the civil engineer for the future. 1st ed. Reston, VA: ASCE. ASCE. 2008. Civil engineering body of knowledge for the 21st century: Preparing the civil engineer for the future. 2nd ed. Reston, VA: ASCE. ASCE. 2019. Civil engineering body of knowledge: Preparing the future civil engineer. Reston, VA: ASCE. ASCE. 2020. The code of ethics. Reston, VA: ASCE. Oerther, D. B., D. A. Chin, V. G. Gude, C. N. Haas, A. MacKay, F. Ozis, M. Marincel Payne, and D. A. Vaccari. 2021a. “The academy, the association, and the society advancing environmental engineering training and credentialing.” Environ. Eng. Sci. 38 (10): 923–926. https://doi.org/10.1089/ees.2021.0347. Oerther, D. B., D. A. Chin, A. Shaw, D. A. Vaccari, and W. Wert. 2021b. “Dear WEF, the academy needs your input to update the environmental engineering body of knowledge.” Water Environ. Res. https://doi.org/10.1002/wer.1647. Oerther, D. B., D. A. Chin, J. E. Tobiason, and D. A. Vaccari. Forthcoming. “We are seeking input from the membership of AWWA as we update the environmental engineering body of knowledge.” J. AWWA. 114 (2).



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