ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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ANSI’s Capitol Hill Event: Standards Enhance 21st Century Infrastructure

Event unites standardization experts and Hill staffers


The recent American National Standards Institute (ANSI) event on Capitol Hill, “Standards and 21st Century Infrastructure,” highlighted the various ways that standards enhance infrastructure and focused on the valuable contributions of technical experts serving on standards committees and the importance of public-private partnerships. The event brought together 53 attendees including representatives of ANSI members and standards developers, and congressional staff.

ANSI president and CEO S. Joe Bhatia provided opening remarks, noting that while the United States achieved comprehensive public infrastructure before many other nations, aging energy systems, bridges, and highways underscore the tremendous need for continued collaborative work between the public and private sectors to support innovative renovations. To that end, he recognized efforts within the standards and conformance space to enhance repairs and the resiliency of America’s infrastructure.

Mr. Bhatia explained that standards serve several purposes in supporting infrastructure. “Standards can help determine the extent of damage or other operational problems through testing and inspection. They can identify fitness for purpose of new materials for repair of replacement. They can help with continued monitoring using the latest sensors and measurement technology. And standards can inform decision making for the resiliency of infrastructure systems using failure analysis and risk prediction,” he said.

He added, “We also have to be sure to remember the importance of conformity assessment, where products, services, systems, and even personnel are checked to assure that they meet requirements. Standards and conformance are two sides of the same coin – one doesn't work without the other.”

The event also highlighted the value of the American National Standard (ANS) process, the valuable contributions of the thousands of technical experts serving on standards committees, as well as the contribution of the most current codes and standards to enabling good return on investment.

Efforts to Enhance Existing Infrastructure

The first panel session emphasized the contributions of standards that are utilized to enhance the resilience of existing infrastructure. Chris Ochoa of the International Code Council (ICC) highlighted ICC’s codes and standards and briefly discussed ICC’s High School Technical Training Program (HSTTP). The educational program has four parts: building, plumbing, HVAC (mechanical), and electrical. A technical school can integrate one or more parts of the program into its current construction trade curricula to better provide students with a comprehensive knowledge of construction trades. He also referenced a relatively new entity that falls under the ICC umbrella – the Alliance for National and Community Resilience (ANCR) – and is currently building partnerships to support its community resilience benchmarking system.

Patrick Hughes, NEMA, provided key examples of NEMA standards that underpin the electric grid. He noted that recent upgrades to the grid, such as smart meters and automated switches, enable utilities to better understand where power outages have occurred and help minimize the number of affected customers. He also noted that cybersecurity is an issue associated with these new grid technologies, and commended the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework to Congress as a flexible approach to managing risk.

Steve Unikewicz of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) noted the critical role of ASME codes and standards in the nuclear sector. These documents are the product of the efforts of more than 7,000 experts from industry, academia, and government.

How Standards Support Innovative Infrastructure

Panelists for the second session highlighted the role of standards in integrating innovative new materials, technologies, and processes into infrastructure.

Kathie Morgan, ASTM International, (pictured, above) spoke on the contributions of thousands of technical experts serving on ASTM committees, as they help bring new technologies into practice—in areas ranging from concrete to cement to piping to reclaimed asphalt, and more. She also noted that standards dictate the return on needed investments in infrastructure by ensuring that improvements are of the highest technical quality.

Dave Purkiss of NSF International highlighted a broadly used American National Standard (ANS), NSF/ANSI 61-2016, Drinking water system components – health effects. First published in 1988, the standard has been updated 29 times, largely to take into account research advances and new technologies that enhance the accuracy of sampling.

Christopher Lindsay, IAPMO, talked about the global aspects of water and sanitation issues, and provided several examples of how standards are contributing to advances in both areas. He noted the efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s advanced toilet challenge and the resulting International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards effort, for which ANSI holds the secretariat. [For related coverage, see the ANSI article: Register: Second Meeting for ISO International Workshop on Community-Scale Resource-Oriented Sanitation Systems]. He also explained that in San Francisco, the municipal plumbing code now requires water reuse for all facilities in the city over a certain square footage. This requirement, underpinned by standards, has enabled San Francisco to reduce water demand by 49 percent.

Spotlight on Efforts to Monitor the Built Environment

In the final session, Chris Dubay of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) highlighted the critical importance of the ANS process and the ANSI Essential Requirements. He noted the importance of standards to incorporating new technologies safely, as well as the key role that standards play in enforcement and inspection regimes; inspection, testing, and maintenance of infrastructure; and proper design or retrofitting of buildings based on their current use. Most up-to-date codes and standards are developed in a full consensus process, and the results help reduce operations risk for infrastructure owners.

Lisa Salley, American Petroleum Institute (API), explained that there is an estimated $1.3T of investment needed in the U.S.'s oil and gas infrastructure through 2035. She also spoke about API’s Individual Certification Programs (ICP) that provide the petroleum and petrochemical industries with an independent and unbiased way to evaluate the knowledge and experience of technical and inspection personnel.

Neil Lakomiak, UL, highlighted the role of connected technologies in the built environment. The predictive capacity of connected systems is an exciting new development, which provides infrastructure owners and operators with critical intelligence systems conditions, enabling early fixes and reduced downtime.


 Homeland Defense and Security Standardization Collaborative