Several years ago I was invited to attend an AISC Specifications committee meeting. Over the years that involvement has increased, beginning with attendance, to now serving as a member of three AISC committees: Committee on Specifications, a task committee on Stability, and a Seismic Design Manual subcommittee, and an ASCE committee on steel building design. The committees consist of a mix of practicing engineers, academicians, and industry representatives such as steel producers and fabricators. Many of these are among the leading experts in their fields. Committee members represent experience on a wide range of projects and research. Each committee meeting is like a course on a specific engineering topic; as proposals are presented and debated, we are given technical presentations on existing and proposed code requirements, see mathematical derivations, consider results of studies and laboratory tests, and hear personal experiences. With many of the proposals there is a rich debate of opposing views, which ultimately leads to a refinement of our understanding of the issues. I have learned so much from my committee involvement. The value of what I have learned from attending the committee meetings far exceeds the value of my time spent on committee involvement, and has given me insights that I could have never obtained through traditional courses and study.
Through my involvement I have also had some influence on the Specifications themselves, adding clarity to the wording of some specifications and influencing changes to simplify others, including changes to proposed requirements that would have been difficult and impractical for the practicing engineer to implement. I urge you to get involved in the Code process, even if you don’t consider yourself an expert on any given subject. Your practical experience is invaluable; code committees need the practical influence that practicing engineers can provide. We often complain about the increasing complexity of the codes, but it has been my experience that the committees have been attentive to, and sought out the advice of, the practicing engineers that attend the meetings. We need more of you to attend and get involved, whether it is AISC, ACI, ASCE, or others.
Involvement in these committees requires commitment. It isn’t just the time traveling and attending the meetings, it also requires outside effort. This includes studying issues and proposals, conducting studies, creating examples, and writing and revising Commentary. Fortunately I work for an employer that recognizes the value of that involvement and is willing to accommodate my participation. I hope that you, too, work for someone that recognizes the value of such involvement and allows you to spend time on such activities. The exposure is good for both you and your company.
I have always found that being involved in various activities ultimately proves to be beneficial. Contacts with others are made, ideas are exchanged, and when I am contributing I am forced to consider the issues, and my words, carefully so that what I write or say has clarity and import. Bentley Communities is one way in which you can be involved. It provides a platform for posting questions, contributing to discussions, and offering answers and solutions. With all of your varied backgrounds and experiences, each of you can be valuable contributors. If you have a question, post it; if you have some insight, add to the discussions; if you know the answer to a question, post it. Ultimately, just like my involvement on the AISC and ASCE committees I think you will find that you have learned and gotten more from the involvement than you have given.
Are you involved within your industry? If so, comment below and let's talk about your experience!