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Gibson’s legacy of construction earns Distinguished Member honor

Above: Professor George Edward “Edd” Gibson, Jr., considered the foremost expert in front-end planning of capital facilities in academia, is one of eight civil engineers nationwide to be named a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2020. Photographer: Nick Narducci/ASU

Professor George Edward “Edd” Gibson, Jr., the Sunstate Chair of construction management and engineering at Arizona State University, is one of eight civil engineers nationwide to be named a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2020.

The honor of Distinguished Member, reserved for people who have obtained eminence in engineering fields such as engineering education and construction, recognizes Gibson’s career-long contributions in these areas.

Gibson, a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, is considered the foremost expert in front-end planning of capital facilities in academia. He is also an expert in organizational change, asset management, earned value management systems, alternative dispute resolution, safety and prevention through design, and risk management. Over the course of his career, his work has saved the construction industry billions of dollars by improving capital effectiveness.

“I have been privileged to work with great graduate students and industry practitioners to develop, over the past 30 years, a number of business process decision support tools to help better define projects from the earliest stages,” says Gibson.

One of his current research projects on earned value management systems is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. In the project, Gibson is working with several U.S. government agencies and contractors to develop a way to evaluate the maturity and environment of earned value management systems, also known as EVMS, which are used to manage cost and schedule performance of large megaprojects, such as environmental cleanups, manufacturing facilities, power projects, missile systems, aircraft deliveries and so forth. Gibson’s goal is to develop methods to make EVM systems better attuned to the specific project or program, helping to deliver these projects within budget and schedule, thus saving investment costs.

“Dr. Edd Gibson is the global research leader in capital project front end planning. Application of Gibson’s research findings can lead to significant safety (including public safety), cost, schedule and quality outcomes and literally change the world. Dr. Gibson is well-deserving of the honor of Distinguished Member ASCE.”

Wayne Crew, general secretary of the National Academy of Construction

For Gibson, who has trained and educated thousands of students and practitioners on the nuances of better facility planning, the research and development work he has performed in early project planning for large construction projects has been the most impactful in his career.

“I have had the opportunity to consult with more than 70 organizations, including most of the U.S. government agencies who build facilities and many of the largest industrial owners in the world, to help them do a better job of stewardship with their funds in the capital budgeting process,” says Gibson. “It is gratifying to be in meetings around the world and hear people talking positively about these tools and techniques with no idea that I was the person behind their development.”

He is also working to improve safety practices that will help engineers and designers deliver projects that are safer for construction and manufacturing workers and the public.

“I have a research project with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to develop a series of workshops over the next five years to promote safer design processes and teaching practices for engineers and architects,” says Gibson. Gibson is also working with the U.S. Department of Energy on developing an augmented reality system to help nuclear plant workers make better and safer decisions when operating power plants.

“We are very fortunate to have Edd in our midst. He has been instrumental in growing SSEBE in size and stature, and has contributed immensely to the profession through his scholarship, teaching and professional service. His elevation to the rank of Distinguished Member of ASCE is truly a well-deserved honor and recognition of his impressive body of work.”

Ram Pendyala, director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

While he has contributed to projects all over the world, Gibson had the unique opportunity to support construction at ASU where he serves as a researcher and educator.

“I even got a chance to use these tools and techniques while I helped plan the College Avenue Commons building here on campus,” says Gibson.

Before arriving at ASU, Gibson served as a faculty member in the undergraduate construction engineering program at North Carolina State University. He spent 15 years at the University of Texas at Austin, where he led the architectural engineering program for four years.  He later became instrumental in the founding of construction engineering programs at the University of Alabama, then at ASU. 

“There are only about 16 accredited construction engineering programs in the world, so I feel I have had a large impact on establishing construction engineering as a standalone and well-respected engineering discipline,” says Gibson. “It has been an honor to serve in academic administrator positions for 19 years during my career, including nine years here at ASU.”

Gibson has mentored more than 100 graduate students to completion of their degree programs and has taught more than 215 outreach courses to industry practitioners.

“I find it fulfilling as a member of academia to have been able to help so many students, as this is the real legacy that we all leave as teachers,” says Gibson. 

In addition to teaching and mentoring, he and his wife have established four endowed scholarships at three different universities and colleges. Gibson also was instrumental in establishing a North American construction student scholarship program through the National Academy of Construction during the past year.

“Edd Gibson is very deserving of this prestigious honor. He is one of those rare individuals who is highly respected in both the academic and professional communities, in part because he seamlessly operates across the two. That makes him an excellent and relevant teacher, an influencer for adoption of new ideas in industry, and the natural choice as leader for efforts in both communities. That is clearly seen through the various positions and roles he has held in his career, the excellent preparation of his students and the significant impact he has had on industry.”

Paul Johnsonpresident of the Colorado School of Mines and emeritus professor of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

Gibson, a professional member of ASCE since 1990, has served on the ASCE Construction Research Council since 1993. He was a member of the Board of Governors of ASCE’s Architectural Engineering Institute from 2003 to 2008, including serving as its President from 2006 to 2007. Gibson served as a member of the Construction Engineering Education Committee, part of ASCE’s Construction Institute from 2006 to 2009. Most recently he co-chaired the ASCE 2020 Construction Research Congress, held in Tempe, Arizona, in March.

ASCE has more than 150,000 current members representing 177 countries around the world. Established in 1852, it is the nation’s oldest engineering society and has been naming Distinguished Members since 1853. In that 167-year period, fewer than 700 civil engineers have achieved this title.

“I am honored and thrilled to receive this award,” says Gibson of his most recent honor. “I look at the list of past honorees and am in awe. Many of the names on the list are famous to the civil engineering profession and a number are great civil engineers who I have had the honor of working with during my career.” 

Gibson joins fellow Fulton Schools faculty members Edward Kavazanjian and Bruce Rittmann as ASCE Distinguished Members.

About The Author

Erik Wirtanen

Erik Wirtanen graduated from Arizona State in 2001 with a B.S. in Recreation Management and Tourism. He got his start in the communications field as an undergrad with the ASU Athletics Media Relations office. He worked at UC Irvine from 2002 until 2014 in the Department of Athletics and then The Henry Samueli School of Engineering. In August of 2014, Wirtanen joined the communications office at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Media Contact: erik.wirtanen@asu.edu | 480-727-1957 | Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Communications

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