ACEC Florida President Scott Martin, PE, LEED AP, DBIA
To the ACEC Florida Community,
It’s been almost 12 months since I took over as President of this amazing organization, which means our annual conference is coming up – July 26-29th in Marco Island. I hope you’ve already made plans to join us! It also means this will be my final President’s message, so I would like to look back at some of the issues we faced and accomplishments we made over the past year and look forward to the challenges I hope ACEC Florida continues to champion for our member firms in the years to come.
Florida, along with the rest of the planet, saw several natural disasters that highlighted the positives and negatives that engineers and the public policy that focus our efforts can have on human civilization.
- Hurricanes Ian and Nicole struck Florida in late 2022, devastating different parts of our state. While Ian (which tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the U.S.) decimated the barrier islands, mobile home parks, and some of the coastal construction in Lee County, it also showed that destruction is not guaranteed from storms like this. Proper planning and engineering can withstand the worst storms, as the resiliency of the Babcock Ranch development and Punta Gorda showed after Ian. It will be more important for planners and developers to learn from this as storm severity continues to increase from climate change.
- In February of this year, two major earthquakes struck southern Turkey killing over 50,000 people and leading to the collapse of nearly 25,000 buildings. Turkey may seem like a world away from Florida, but the policies and regulations that led to many failed structures may not be. Turkey had modernized seismic building codes, and many failed buildings had been designed to those codes, so why did they collapse? Officials have pointed to corruption, including allowing developers to pay fines to license under-designed buildings, lax inspections and oversight of the design and construction industry, and poor construction practices. Others have claimed that another contributing factor was the low barrier to entry for civil engineering school graduates who are not required to pass certification exams or complete on-the-job training to become an engineer in Turkey. As we look to the future of development, regulation, and engineering licensure in Florida, we must learn from tragic failures of built environment policies from all parts of the world and continue treating engineering as the apprenticeship profession it is meant to be.
- As we see in the American West each summer, wildfires in Canada have burned millions of acres of forest in 2023, reminding us that we need to do better at living in an increasingly dry environment. Forest fires are often natural; many western landscapes have burned for millennia and contain species that are adapted to need fire. However, as human development has pushed closer to these environments, the universal fire suppression policies used for the past century have left much more small-growth tinder for fires, which have become larger and more destructive each year. Mechanical engineers have responded in areas with annual smoke pollution by designing new buildings with HVAC systems that include HEPA filters or options to recirculate air on heavy smoke days. Forest managers in the U.S. and Canada are also now accepting that the methods of prescribed, low-severity fires used by Indigenous communities for centuries to maintain forest health are the best way for us to live more sustainably with fire. Congress allocated nearly $10 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to invest in these practices in the U.S., and Canada is looking to remove legal barriers to Indigenous cultural burns that have been in place since as far back as 1874.
Engineering is about learning from past successes and failures and problem-solving for the future. I’m optimistic that we will continue learning and adapting to live better with the changing world around us.
Looking to what ACEC Florida has accomplished over the past year, we focused extensively on collaboration with other engineering organizations. Beginning with our partner and sister organization, the Florida Engineering Society (FES), ACEC Florida now officially jointly owns the building that FES has owned since 1979, and both organizations have maintained as our joint headquarters since ACEC Florida (formerly known as FICE) became a separate association.
ACEC Florida also joined with FES to re-imagine the FES Journal as a multi-organizational quarterly publication now called Engineering Florida. To ensure that this publication will speak for Florida’s entire engineering community, we partnered with other associations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers Florida Section (FLASCE), Florida Structural Engineers Association (FSEA), the American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE), and the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) to bring a more inclusive and diverse voice to each issue. We continue to reach out to other engineering associations across the state to join the Editorial Board of Engineering Florida (feel free to reach out to me if another association you belong to would like to be a part of the magazine).
As we do every year, ACEC Florida collaborated with lawmakers in Tallahassee to address any changes to Florida law that would impact our member firms. For the second year, we worked with Senator Bradley on the Condo Safety and Inspections Act passed in 2022. This year we focused on minor tweaks such as those needed to provide flexibility to assure all older condominiums could meet their required inspection deadline of 2025. ACEC also worked with the FDOT and legislators to promote the more than $17 billion allocated for DOT projects this session.
Unfortunately, several lawmakers this year were not focused on collaboration on smart policymaking and were set on pushing other agendas for other reasons. ACEC Florida and FES were forced to oppose hastily rushed new Department of Environmental Protection rules for waterway nutrient reductions as they were unrealistic and not based on sound science (though we remain committed to working with DEP to find the right solutions). Over strong opposition from ACEC Florida and other groups, legislators also passed laws that allow contractors to modify fire protection systems in buildings without engineering review and exempt Florida’s universities from needing to comply with the Consultants Competitive Negotiation Act, allowing them to low-bid design services. As our chief lobbyist noted at the end of Session this year, the political climate in Tallahassee has changed to where he feels his 25 years of work for FES and ACEC Florida have been washed away.
Over the past few years, many of Florida’s lawmakers have been less focused on policies that will progress the state and help all Floridians and instead on agendas that create division, confusion, and fear in the public they are supposed to serve. It’s more important than ever for engineers to be proactive in leadership and policymaking. NSPE’s code of ethics binds us to “Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.” In addition to this, ASCE’s code of ethics adds that engineers shall “treat all persons with respect, dignity, and fairness, and reject all forms of discrimination and harassment” and to “consider and balance societal, environmental, and economic impacts, along with opportunities for improvement, in our work.” As I’ve said and written many times over the past year – ACEC is filled with leaders. As members, we are all firm principals and leaders within our engineering companies. It is our ethical responsibility to learn from the failures around us and lead society to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this organization for the past year. I look forward to helping incoming President Tom Hayden and the leaders that will follow him to solve the challenges that ACEC of Florida and the engineering community are sure to face in the years to come.
Scott D. Martin, P.E., LEED AP, DBIA / Principal
Design-Build Market Leader
Walter P Moore
201 East Kennedy Boulevard, Suite 700
Tampa, Florida 33602-5823
813.275.8112 p / 727.642.6212 c
firstname.lastname@example.org / www.walterpmoore.com