Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Message From Chair - Professor Brett Sanders, Ph.D.

In California and across the U.S., momentum is growing to increase investment in civil infrastructure. California recently increased its gas tax and vehicle-licensing fees, which will generate billions of dollars and put thousands of people to work. President Trump has called for major investments in U.S. infrastructure.

Infrastructure projects will be designed and managed by civil and environmental engineers based on clients’ requirements and applicable policies and design standards. But history shows that civil infrastructure failings often are linked to what wasn’t considered. For example, Southern California flood control systems excel in moving surface runoff quickly to the ocean, but they are a disaster from the perspective of water quality, ecology and community aesthetics. U.S. freeways move vast numbers of vehicles, but freeway construction displaced thousands and worsened poverty in many urban communities. When the concrete on Lake Oroville’s spillway crumbled in February, 180,000 Californians were evacuated.

To maximize benefits to Californians, this new wave of infrastructure investment needs to be smarter than ever before, and engineers must think beyond traditional project guidelines and requirements to make truly world-class infrastructure. We can use new technology and sustainability science, including an improved understanding of the dynamic interactions between human systems, natural resources and civil infrastructure. Importantly, communities need to be more engaged in civil infrastructure projects by engineers to achieve the greatest possible social good; and the key is engaging community groups as partners early in the process.

CEE@UCI strives to think systematically about infrastructure and its intersection with people and the environment. This perspective is critical now more than ever.


Brett F. Sanders
Professor and Chair

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