kids encyclopedia robot

American Society of Civil Engineers facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
American Society of Civil Engineers
ASCE logo.svg
Abbreviation ASCE
Founded November 5, 1852; 171 years ago (1852-11-05)
Type Engineering society
Focus Purpose of the group is the advancement of the science and profession of Civil engineering and the enhancement of human welfare through the activities of society members.
Area served
Method Industry standards, conferences, publications
143,189 (2021 ASCE Official Register)
Official language
Maria C. Lehman, P.E. (2023)
Past President
Dennis D. Truax, Ph.D., P.E. (2022)
Marsia Geldert-Murphey, P.E. (2024)
Secretary and Executive Director
Thomas W. Smith III
US $49.4 million (2022)
Endowment US $29.2 million (2022)

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is a tax-exempt professional body founded in 1852 to represent members of the civil engineering profession worldwide. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, it is the oldest national engineering society in the United States. Its constitution was based on the older Boston Society of Civil Engineers from 1848.

ASCE is dedicated to the advancement of the science and profession of civil engineering and the enhancement of human welfare through the activities of society members. It has more than 143,000 members in 177 countries. Its mission is to provide essential value to members, their careers, partners, and the public; facilitate the advancement of technology; encourage and provide the tools for lifelong learning; promote professionalism and the profession; develop and support civil engineers.


The first serious and documented attempts to organize civil engineers as a professional society in the newly created United States were in the early 19th century. In 1828, John Kilbourn of Ohio managed a short-lived "Civil Engineering Journal," editorializing about the recent incorporation of the Institution of Civil Engineers in Great Britain that same year, Kilbourn suggested that the American corps of engineers could constitute an American society of civil engineers. Later, in 1834, an American trade periodical, the "American Railroad Journal," advocated for a similar national organization of civil engineers.

Institution of American Civil Engineers

On December 17, 1838, a petition started circulating asking civil engineers to meet in 1839 in Baltimore, Maryland, to organize a permanent society of civil engineers. Prior to that, thirteen notable civil engineers largely identifiable as being from New York, Pennsylvania, or Maryland met in Philadelphia. This group presented the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia with a formal proposal that an Institution of American Civil Engineers be established as an adjunct of the Franklin..." Some of them were:

  • Benjamin Wright. In 1969, the American Society of Civil Engineers declared Wright to be the 'Father of American Civil Engineering'.
  • William Strickland
  • Pennsylvanians Edward Miller and Solomon. W. Roberts, the latter being Chief Engineer for the Allegheny Portage railroad, the first crossing of the Allegheny mountains (1831–1834)

Forty engineers actually appeared at the February 1839 meeting in Baltimore, including J. Edgar Thomson (Future Chief Engineer and later President of the Pennsylvania Railroad), Wright, Roberts, Edward Miller, and the Maryland engineers Isaac Trimble and Benjamin Henry Latrobe II and attendees from as far as Massachusetts, Illinois, and Louisiana. Subsequently, a group met again in Philadelphia, led by its Secretary, Edward Miller to take steps to formalize the society, participants now included such other notable engineers as:

  • John B. Jervis
  • Claudius Crozet
  • William Gibbs McNeill
  • George Washington Whistler
  • Walter Gwynn
  • J. Edgar Thompson
  • Sylvester Welch, brother of future ASCE president Ashbel Welch
  • Other members included Jonathan Knight, chief engineer of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and Moncure Robinson.

Miller drafted a proposed constitution that defined society's purpose as "the collection and diffusion of professional knowledge, the advancement of mechanical philosophy, and the elevation of the character and standing of the Civil Engineers of the United States." Membership in the new society restricted membership to engineers, and "architects and eminent machinists were to be admitted only as Associates." The proposed constitution failed, and no further attempts were made to form another society. Miller later ascribed the failure to the difficulties of assembling members due to available means for traveling in the country at the time. One of the other difficulties members would have to contend with was the requirement to produce each year one previously unpublished paper or "...present a scientific book, map, plan or model, not already in the possession of the Society, under the penalty of $10." In that same period, the editor of the American Railroad Journal commented that effort had failed in part due to certain jealousies that arose due to the proposed affiliation with the Franklin Institute. That journal continued discussion on forming an engineers' organization from 1839 thru 1843 serving its own self-interests in advocating its journal as a replacement for a professional society but to no avail.

The American Society of Civil Engineers and Architects

During the 1840s, professional organizations continued to develop and organize in the United States. The organizers' motives were largely to "improve common standards, foster research, and disseminate knowledge through meetings and publications." Unlike earlier associations such as the American Philosophical Society, these newer associations were not seeking to limit membership as much as pursue "more specialized interests." Examples of this surge in new professional organizations in America were the American Statistical Association (1839), American Ethnological Society (1842), American Medical Association (1847), American Association for the Advancement of Science, (1848) and National Education Association (1852).

During this same period of association incorporations in the 1840s, attempts were again made at organizing an American engineer association. They succeeded at first with the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, organized in 1848, and then in October 1852, with an effort to organize a Society of Civil Engineers and Architects in New York. Led by Alfred W. Craven, Chief Engineer of the Croton Aqueduct and future ASCE president, the meeting resolved to incorporate the society under the name "American Society of Civil Engineers And Architects". Membership eligibility was restricted to "civil, geological, mining and mechanical Engineers, architects, and other persons who, by profession, are interested in the advancement of science." James Laurie was elected the society's first president. At an early meeting of the Board of Direction in 1852, instructions were given for the incorporation of the "American Society of Civil Engineers and Architects" but this was the proper steps were never taken, and therefore this name never legally belonged to the association. The ASCE held its first meetings at the Croton Aqueduct Department building in City Hall Park, Manhattan. The meetings only went through 1855 and with the advent of the American Civil War, the society suspended its activities.

Late 19th century

1888 LOC ASCE annual meeting photo- NO NAMES
1888 American Society of Civil Engineers at their 20th annual meeting at the Athenaeum building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The next meeting was more than twelve years later in 1867. A number of the original founders, such as James Laurie, J.W. Adams, C. W. Copeland, and W. H. Talcott, were at this meeting and were dedicated to the objective of resuscitating the society. They also planned to put the society on a more permanent footing and elect fifty-four new members. With success in that effort, the young engineering society passed a resolution noting that its preservation was mainly due to the persevering efforts of its first president, James Laurie. The address of President James Pugh Kirkwood delivered at that meeting in 1867 was the first publication of the society, appearing in Volume 1 of "Transactions", bearing date of 1872.

On March 4, 1868, by a vote of 17 to 4, the name was changed to "American Society of Civil Engineers", but it was not until April 17, 1877, that the lack of incorporation was discovered and the proper steps taken to remedy the defect. The society was then chartered and incorporated in New York state.

The reconvened ASCE met at the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York until 1875 when the society moved to 4 East 23rd Street. The ASCE moved again in 1877 to 104 East 20th Street and in 1881 to 127 East 23rd Street. The ASCE commissioned a new headquarters at 220 West 57th Street in 1895. The building was completed in 1897 and served as the society's headquarters until 1917 when the ASCE moved to the Engineering Societies' Building.

Mrs. Nora Stanton Blatch
Nora Stanton Blatch Barney 1921

20th century

Nora Stanton Barney was among the first women in the United States to earn a civil engineering degree, graduating from Cornell University in 1905. In the same year, she was accepted as a junior member of the organization and began work for the New York City Board of Water Supply. She was the first female member of ASCE, where she was allowed to be a junior member, but was denied advancement to associate member in 1916 because of her gender. In 2015, she was posthumously advanced to ASCE Fellow status.

Engineering Centennial 3c 1952 issue U.S. stamp
U.S. stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ASCE in 1952

In 1999, the ASCE elected the top-ten "civil engineering achievements that had the greatest positive impact on life in the 20th century" in "broad categories". Monuments of the Millennium were a "combination of technical engineering achievement, courage and inspiration, and a dramatic influence on the development of [their] communities". The achievements and monuments that best exemplified them included:


ASCE's mission is to deliver essential value to "its members, their careers, our partners, and the public" as well as enable "the advancement of technology, encourage and provide the tools for lifelong learning, promote professionalism and the profession." The society also seeks to "develop and support civil engineer leaders, and advocate infrastructure and environmental stewardship." The society as an exempt organization in the United States (Section 501(c)(3)) was required to reported its program service accomplishments and related expenses and revenues.


ASCE stated that dissemination of technical and professional information to the civil engineering profession was a major goal of the society. This is accomplished through a variety of publications and information products, including 35 technical and professional journals amongst them:

  • ASCE Journal of Structural Engineering
  • Journal of Environmental Engineering
  • Journal of Hydraulic Engineering
  • Journal of Hydrologic Engineering
  • Journal of Transportation Engineering, Part A: Systems
  • Journal of Transportation Engineering, Part B: Pavements
  • Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management
  • Civil Engineering, the society's monthly magazine

They also publish an online bibliographic database, conference proceedings, standards, manuals of practice, and technical reports.

The ASCE Library contains 470+ E-books and standards, some with chapter-level access and no restrictive DRM, and 600+ online proceedings.

Conferences, meetings, and education

Each year, more than 55,000 engineers earn continuing education units (CEUs) and/or professional development hours (PDHs) by participating in ASCE's continuing education programs. ASCE hosts more than 15 annual and specialty conferences, over 200 continuing education seminars and more than 300 live web seminars. Meetings include "...committees, task forces, focus groups, workshops and seminars designed to bring together civil engineering experts either from specific fields or those with a broad range of experience and skills. These meetings deal with specific topics and issues facing civil engineers such as America's failing infrastructure, sustainability, earthquakes, and bridge collapses."

Engineering programs

The engineering programs division directly advances the science of engineering by delivering technical content for ASCE's publications, conferences and continuing education programs. It consists of eight discipline-specific institutes, four technical divisions, and six technical councils. The work is accomplished by over 600 technical committees with editorial responsibility for 28 of ASCE's 33 journals. On an annual basis, the division conducts more than twelve congresses and specialty conferences. As a founding society of ANSI and accredited standards development organization, ASCE committees use an established and audited process to produce consensus standards under a program supervised by the society's Codes and Standards Committee.

Civil Engineering Certification Inc. (CEC), affiliated with ASCE, has been established to support specialty certification academies for civil engineering specialties and is accredited by the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB). CEC also handles safety certification for state, municipal, and federal buildings, formerly the province of the now-defunct Building Security Council. The Committee on Critical Infrastructure (CCI) provides vision and guidance on ASCE activities related to critical infrastructure resilience, including planning, design, construction, O&M, and event mitigation, response and recovery.

Certification is the recognition of attaining advanced knowledge and skills in a specialty area of civil engineering. ASCE offers certifications for engineers who demonstrate advanced knowledge and skills in their area of engineering.

  • American Academy of Water Resources Engineers (AAWRE)
  • Academy of Geo-Professionals (AGP)
  • Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port & Navigation Engineers (ACOPNE)


ASCE also has nine full-service institutes created to serve working professionals working within specialized fields of civil engineering:

  • Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI)
  • Coasts, Oceans, Ports and Rivers Institute (COPRI)
  • Construction Institute (CI)
  • Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI)
  • Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI)
  • Geo-Institute (G-I)
  • Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI)
  • Structural Engineering Institute (SEI)
  • Utility Engineering & Surveying Institute (UESI)


To advance its policy mission, ASCE "...identifies legislation to improve the nation's infrastructure, and advance the profession of engineering specifically, ASCE lobbied on legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. In 2015, ASCE's Lobbying at the Federal level was focused primarily upon:

  • Reauthorization of the federal surface transportation programs such as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)
  • Reauthorization of the brownfields revitalization and environmental restoration act.
  • Reauthorization of the national dam safety program and creation of a national levee safety program due to National Levee Safety Act Of 2007, WRDA Title IX, Section 9000.
  • Reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program
  • Reauthorization of the drinking water state revolving fund program
  • Water resources development act
  • funding for stem education programs
  • Reauthorization of the 1977 national earthquake hazards reduction program
  • Reauthorization of the national windstorm impact reduction act
  • Safe building code incentive act
  • Appropriations for federal programs relating to civil engineering, including surface transportation, aviation, water resources, environment, education, homeland security, and research and development.

Lobbying at the state and local level focused primarily upon licensure of civil engineers, procurement of engineering services, continuing education, and the financing of infrastructure improvements as well as lobbying at the state level to raise the minimum requirements for licensure as a professional engineer as part of ASCE's Raise the Bar (RTB) and Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge (CEBoK) initiatives.

For 2018, ASCE identified Federal advocacy priorities as follows:

  • Civil engineering education (higher education)
  • Clean water, drinking water and wastewater issues
  • Natural hazards mitigation & infrastructure security
  • Qualifications-Based Selection for engineering services
  • Research and Development Funding
  • Science, technology, engineering and math(STEM) education & support (K-12)
  • Sustainability, implicitly sustainable engineering
  • Transportation infrastructure

The State advocacy priorities in 2018 are as follows:

  • Licensing
  • Natural Hazards Impact Mitigation
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education & support (K-12)
  • State support for civil engineering higher education
  • Sustainability, implicitly sustainable engineering
  • Tort reform & indemnification for pro bono services
  • Transportation infrastructure financing

Strategic issues and initiatives

To promote the society's objectives and address key issues facing the civil engineering profession, ASCE developed three strategic initiatives: Sustainable Infrastructure, the ASCE Grand Challenge, and Raise the Bar.

Awards and designations

PhilaCityHall 03
ASCE Historical Marker at Philadelphia City Hall.

ASCE honors civil engineers through many Society Awards including the Norman medal (1874), Wellington prize (1921), Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, the Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) awards in the categories of construction, design, education, government and management, the Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) for projects, the Henry L. Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research and the Charles Pankow Award for innovation, 12 scholarships and fellowships for student members. Created in 1968 by ASCE's Sanitary Engineering Division, the Wesley W. Horner award is named after former ASCE President Wesley W. Horner, and given to a recently peer reviewed published paper in the fields of hydrology, urban drainage, or sewerage. Special consideration is given to private practice engineering work that is recognized as a valuable contribution to the field of environmental engineering. The Lifetime Achievement Award has been presented annually since 1999 and recognizes five different individual leaders. One award is present in each category of design, construction, government, education, and management.

Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize

In July 1946, the Board of Direction authorized annual awards on recommendation by the society's Committee on Research to stimulate research in civil engineering. In October 1964, Mrs. Alberta Reed Huber endowed these prizes in honor of her husband, Walter L. Huber, past president, ASCE. The Huber Prize is considered the highest level mid-career research prize in civil engineering and is awarded for outstanding achievements and contributions in research with respect to all disciplines of civil engineering.

ASCE Foundation

The ASCE Foundation is a charitable foundation established in 1994 to support and promote civil engineering programs that "... enhance quality of life, promote the profession, advance technical practices, and prepare civil engineers for tomorrow." It is incorporated separately from the ASCE, although it has a close relationship to it and all the foundation's personnel are employees of ASCE. The foundation board of directors has seven persons and its bylaws require that four of the seven directors must be ASCE officers as well and the ASCE executive director and chief financial officer must also be ASCE employees. The foundation's support is most often to ASCE's charitable, educational and scientific programs. The foundation's largest program is supporting three strategic areas; lifelong learning and leadership, advocacy for infrastructure investment and the role of civil engineers in sustainable practices. In 2014, this foundation's support in these areas was almost US$4 million.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Sociedad Estadounidense de Ingenieros Civiles para niños

  • ASCE Library
kids search engine
American Society of Civil Engineers Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.