published Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Wade: Engineering Chattanooga's future

By Eddie Wade

Chattanooga is the ideal place to appreciate Engineers Week. Described as the River City, Scenic City and Gig City, the Tennessee town owes its legacy to engineers.

Stroll across Market Street Bridge. Run down the Tennessee Riverwalk. Ride your bike around TVA's Raccoon Mountain Reservoir or drive over Chickamauga Dam. These are a few of the examples of the engineering feats that serve as the foundation for this city.

The theme for 2014 Engineers Week, which is Feb. 16-22, is "Discover Engineering. Let's Make a Difference." The theme has a dual purpose -- educate the public on what we do and attract future engineers to the field by visiting classrooms.

Next month, the Tennessee Engineering Excellence Award winners will be announced to honor projects that achieve excellence in engineering design. Several Chattanooga projects entered for award consideration exemplify the theme of a community seeking to change its corner of the world.

From the 1960s to the early 1980s, Chattanooga was viewed as one of the dirtiest cities in the United States. Engineers, citizens and government leaders have worked together to transform Chattanooga into a beautiful, healthy and sustainable place to live. In 1996, the city won the first U.S. Presidential Award for Sustainable Development. This recognition acknowledges the hard work and commitment that engineers, local businesses and the city have put into making Chattanooga a better place to live.

The engineers of this city and their sustainable designs have made Chattanooga a greener place to live and work. Civil engineers provided the Main Terrain Art Park with its water reuse irrigation system and designed the pervious pavement and rain garden at Renaissance Park. Geo-technical engineers stabilized the soil of our riverbanks and make possible events like the Riverbend Festival, which brings thousands of visitors to Chattanooga each year.

Electrical engineers designed lighting systems, such as the LED lights in Coolidge Park, to reduce energy costs. Computer, software and wireless engineers created our citywide fiber network, which provides the fastest Internet speeds in the country to every home and business and attracts young entrepreneurs and businesses from across the country, helping us keep that Gig City status.

Mechanical engineers work at Volkswagen, the world's First LEED Platinum Automotive Facility that boasts an impressive solar field. Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design is an honor, and Chattanooga Volkswagen earned its status.

Chemical engineers in our city have contributed to the Tennessee Valley Corridor being named one of America's Top 10 Technology Hot Spots. Structural engineers worked on many of the green roofs in town, beautifying rooftops and improving water quality.

All around Chattanooga you see green elements that engineers have created to benefit both people and the environment. Engineers help create our future, so I encourage Chattanooga to look toward its next generation of engineers, which ties in well with the theme of Engineers Week.

Greater emphasis is being placed on STEM education -- science, technology, engineering and math. STEM provides hands-on classroom experience and statewide competitions, like "Math Counts" on March 17 in Nashville for 6th-8th graders. It is critical for young people to understand the purpose and benefits of engineering and supply the next generation of engineers to improve our communities.

Engineering has helped Chattanooga become one of the top midsize cities in the country and has rehabilitated the Scenic City from one of the worst cases to a model for sustainability and innovation. We are now a destination location.

Chattanooga's engineers are leading this city on a great journey toward a greener, healthier footprint, and I'm honored to be a part of it.

Eddie Wade is vice president and client services manager at East Tennessee engineering firm, LDA Engineering, Inc. He serves as President of the Chattanooga Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee.

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