Posts Tagged: Standard



The Standard

Over at Strong Towns Blog, Charles Marohn has a wonderful post entitled “Confessions of a Recovering Engineer.”

In it, Marohn argues that the current state of civil engineering is built around mindlessly applying bible-like standards passed down from generation to generation. It doesn’t matter if those standards have the exact opposite effect than intended (as in road safety features that actually make roads more dangerous), the standard must always be followed.

No room to question the standard, no room to deviate from the norm.

It’s brave writing, and virtually everything he has to say can be applied to contemporary policy-making, government, planning and urban design. Marohn’s post isn’t just a rant against civil engineering. It’s a rant against our very culture of city building.

A highlight:

In the engineering profession’s version of defensive medicine, we can’t recommend standards that are not in the manual. We can’t use logic to vary from a standard that gives us 60 mph design speeds on roads with intersections every 200 feet. We can’t question why two cars would need to travel at high speed in opposite directions on a city block, let alone why we would want them to. We can yield to public pressure and post a speed limit — itself a hazard — but we can’t recommend a road section that is not in the highway manual.

The idea that “we can’t use logic to vary from a standard” is a heart-breaking reminder that the art and science of city building has become nothing more than a nihilistic exercise in box-ticking; a race to a bottom that privileges conformity over ingeniously applying logic and innovation to solve our collective challenges.

Our cities deserve better than “standard.” And so do you.

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