DIS-TRAN Steel Blog

ASCE Issues America’s Infrastructure a D Report Card

Posted by Brooke Barone on Aug 2, 2013 9:16:00 AM

Is a D average sufficient enough? Well, to answer that I’d guess you would need to take into account the course, the person being graded or the grading scale. So what if I told you America received a D on their 2013 report card for the current state of the nation’s infrastructure?

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) puts out a Report Card that depicts the current condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure by assigning letter grades A through F. Below lists the 16 categories and what letter grade they received in 2013:

America's Infrastructure grades

Each category is evaluated on capacity, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety and resilience. ASCE estimates that a $3.6 trillion investment is needed by 2020.

ASCE also conducts The Failure to Act (FAS) Series: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Electricity Infrastructure, which takes a look at the condition of the US’s infrastructure and how it affects the nation’s economic performance. It also points out why it’s important for the nation to continue to invest in infrastructure, and analyzes two types of infrastructure needs: service increasing populations and expanded economic activity by building new infrastructure and maintaining or rebuild existing infrastructure that needs repair or replacement.

According to ASCE’s FAS, the results showed that deteriorating systems have a cascading impact on the nation’s economy, and negatively affects business production, gross domestic product (GDP), employment, personal income and international competiveness. They also project that if investment needs in infrastructure are not met by 2020, the economy is expected to lose almost $1 trillion in business sales, which results in a loss of 3.5 million jobs.

Although deteriorating conditions in each sector affect business productivity differently, this report looks at the overall picture of how the economy will look if the investment gap is met, as well as the consequences if not.


Think about how many times out of the day we use our smart phones, iPads, iPods and other devices. Well, in order to keep them powered up, they need to be plugged into the wall to charge. The ever growing demand of electricity without serious investment will cause the economy to suffer if future needs are not addressed to upgrade the nation’s electric generation, transmission and distribution systems.

According to the FAS report, based on current trends, the national electricity infrastructure gap is estimated to be $107 billion by 2020, with shortfalls in grid investments accounting for almost 90 percent of the gap and $95 billion to modernize the grid. Also, by 2020, transmission and distribution infrastructure are expected to account for more than 88 percent of the investment gap, with generation infrastructure representing about 11.5 percent. But, by 2040, according to ASCE, the reverse would happen. Generation infrastructure potentially could be the most costly element of the gap, making up 55 percent of the total, with distribution accounting for 30 percent and 15 percent in transmission.

It is also concluded that electricity interruptions, caused by aging equipment and capacity bottlenecks, could cost businesses $126 billion in lost productivity, causing 529,000 lost jobs by 2020.  The interruptions include some of the following:

  • Equipment failures
  • Intermittent voltage surges
  • Power quality irregularities due to equipment insufficiency
  • Blackouts
  • Brownouts as demands exceed capacity

So, to sum up the conclusions from the FAS report, if electricity infrastructure systems (along with the other categories stated previously) deteriorate or fail to keep up with the changing demand, business costs and prices will go up, as well as cause the production process to become more expansive and divert household disposable income to basic necessities.


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Tags: asce, America's Infrastructure, American Society of Civil Engineers, asce infrastructure report card, electricity infrastructure, power transmission systems, distribution systems

Two ASCE Must-Have References for Transmission & Substation Design

Posted by Brooke Barone on May 29, 2013 4:28:00 PM

Whether you’re a seasoned Engineer or still working on your P.E., there are a few ASCE must-haves when it comes to designing substations and transmission structures.

The first reference, Substation Structure Design Guide, also referred to as ASCE Manual 113, was first published in 2008 and is the first of its kind for substation design. The second must-have is the Design of Steel Transmission Pole Structures, also known as ASCE Standard 48-11.

Now let’s see how good you are…

Do you know the main difference in the two? (Besides the obvious that one is intended for substation design and the other for transmission pole.)

Well, if you said one is a guide and the other is a standard then you are correct! It should be addressed that while guides, standards and codes are all used, there is a difference between them.


There is a level of importance that falls with these, meaning that if a guide contradicts a standard, the standard typically wins, and if a standard contradicts a code, the code typically wins.

The substation design guide is currently being updated along with a handful of other design guides, standards and codes.  Jennifer Gemar, Vice President of the Engineering Department at DIS-TRAN Steel, is on the ASCE 113 Design Committee which is responsible for revising the guide, and has a few updates from the latest meeting that was held in the Houston area last month. 

The plan is to have the revision ready for submittal to ASCE by late 2015.  Since this is the guide’s first time going through a revision, it will remain a design guide with the thoughts that it will eventually become a design standard through enough revisions and time.  Overall, it seems the guide has been well received throughout the industry, especially being the first time published.  It has quickly become a “go-to” book, and a great reference and training tool for newer engineers.  It’s pretty much straight forward, and has general definitions of equipment and types of structures found inside a substation.  The fundamentals are basic, and while it points in the right direction when designing, it doesn’t actually give the formulas to design the steel structures.

 The second book, ASCE Standard 48-11, was published in 2012 as a revision to the ASCE Standard 48-05, that was first published in 2005.  This standard replaced the ASCE Manual 72, which at the time, was the main design reference for transmission pole structures.  The standard outlines the minimum criteria that must be considered in the structural design, fabrication, testing, assembly and erection of these type structures.  Unlike the substation guide, ASCE 48-11 explains how to design steel poles and their corresponding connections.  There is a committee currently updating this standard as well.

It’s important that these references stay updated as knowledge and experience permits.  It’s also beneficial to be active on one of the committees responsible for these updates.  Though it can be hard work, it can also be a very educational with opportunities to contribute and shed light on problems or issues that need addressing.

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Tags: steel structures, DIS-TRAN Steel, transmission, asce manual, asce 113, pole structures, substation design, asce standards, asce, high voltage substation structure design

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