February 2023 Engineer of the Month

February 2023 – Chaz Weaver, P.E., M. ASCE

Chaz Weaver is a graduate of Virginia Tech (BS, Civil Engineering) and Old Dominion University (Master’s, Engineering Management). He has 24 years of experience with VDOT, including 17 as District Materials Engineer in Staunton, responsible for materials quality assurance, pavement and geotechnical engineering. Chaz is responsible charge for these areas for projects totaling approximately $2 billion. He has received two Commissioner’s Awards and multiple awards for the Interstate 81 Pavement Recycling Project.

His ASCE experience includes:

  • Student Member 1995, Associate Member 1998, Member 2003, Fellow 2017
  • ASCE Geo-Institute 1999 – Present
  • ASCE National Committee on Leadership and Management 2012 – 2019
    • Chair 2015-2016
  • ASCE National Public Agency Peer Review Committee 2016 – 2019
  • VA Section Board of Directors 2019 – 2023
    • 2022 Centennial Committee
    • 2022 Report Card Committee
    • 2022 Virginias Conference Concrete Canoe Judge
  • JMU Student Chapter Practical Advisor 2022 – Present
  • Miller School of Albemarle Engineering Club Practical Advisor 2022 – Present

He is currently a member of two TRB Standing Committees: Soil and Rock Properties and Site Characterization, and Stabilization of Geomaterials and Recycled Materials, as well as two VDOT Research Advisory Committees: Pavement and Bridge.

Chaz has both a Professional Engineer license (VA) and is a Certified Professional Engineering Manager (ASEM). He is the author of The Valley Baseball League: A History of Baseball in the Shenandoah Valley.

Engineer of the Month Questionnaire

Question 1. What do you consider your major achievements in civil engineering in our Section area?

Definitely the Interstate 81 Pavement Recycling Project. In 2011, VDOT utilized innovative technologies (full-depth reclamation, cold in-place recycling, and cold central-plant recycling) to rehabilitate a 3.66-mile section of I-81 Southbound in Augusta County. This section of interstate was in poor condition, with the source of the damage much deeper than typical rehabilitation projects. We were able to replace these failed materials in a much more efficient manner than typical asphalt or concrete construction, and saved not only millions of taxpayer dollars, but also roadway user time. An innovative traffic shift along a parallel roadway was used to limit delay, and the production rate of the recycling techniques allowed for shorter closure windows. The reuse of existing materials, coupled with the higher production rates, led to a much lower environmental footprint as well as a lower cost. This project was the first in the US to use these multiple technologies on interstate, and led to several research projects and eventually acceptance of these technologies on a wide scale.   

Question 2. Why did you decide on a career in civil engineering?

I was good at math. So when my high school guidance counselor suggested engineering, I looked at the various engineering fields and thought civil engineering was the coolest. Growing up in Harrisonburg, I was not far from two of the country’s best civil engineering programs, Virginia Tech and UVA – so that made access to a quality CE education that much more attractive. In my classes at VT, I quickly came to the realization that I was drawn to heavy civil projects and community service, which made a career at VDOT a goal.

Question 3. Provide some career guidance for young civil engineers.

Just keep learning! This is where I’m supposed to say mind your elders and benefit from their experience, but it really depends on who they are. If your current supervisor isn’t sharing experience and providing opportunities for training, ask yourself why. If your company doesn’t allow funding for professional society membership, conferences, or training opportunities, it’s time to think about how that will affect your career. Having a bachelor’s degree or your PE license doesn’t ensure you are keeping up with the state of the practice – there are ample opportunities for continuous improvement if you are willing to take the initiative and stretch yourself. In the beginning, I would advise that opportunities are more important than salary. If you are stuck doing the same thing every day, it may be time to think about a change.

Take the initiative to communicate with those around you, whether they are working in an area close to yours or not – understanding how things work in your organizational culture is sometimes just as important as the technical knowledge you need to perform.

Younger engineers are sometimes reticent to make their opinions known, even when these could be valuable for your organization – your experience and training is just as important as anyone in your organization, and your input should be respected. The power of a diverse workforce means little if employees aren’t comfortable and willing to participate.

Question 4. What do you consider the major challenge to a career in civil engineering?

Commoditization. While we all have to work in a competitive market, some disciplines/organizations seem to be racing to the bottom in terms of quality to keep costs as low as possible. Schedule and budget will always be a bottom line, but I don’t see younger engineers being excited about providing cheaper services just to save money. The goal should always be to provide the optimum quality for the available funding, and educating clients regarding risks (especially inherent in shortcuts) should always be part of the deal. Some of the most interesting parts of the job are finding and utilizing innovative technologies or methods to provide quality data and recommendations at the lowest cost, but working for an organization that simply cut costs without ever considering alternatives or risk would not be a fun experience. It’s important for younger engineers to know that not all organizations are commodity-driven and there are opportunities for doing high quality work out there.

Question 5. Tell us about your volunteer activities. What is the motivating factor for volunteering? How has being a volunteer enriched your professional career?

I think as engineers become more experienced, we have more of a responsibility to share this experience and advise younger engineers as well as the public. I know I am more cognizant of opportunities to share my experience and find opportunities for others now that I have more experience of my own.

ASCE has been a great source of volunteer opportunities – from national committees to serving on the VA Section board to working on projects such as the Crozet Tunnel and Virginia’s ASCE centennial celebrations. You can serve your community at the local, branch, state, national, or international level in areas that you are experienced in or in areas where you want to gain more experience. I especially enjoy volunteering at concrete canoe competitions and helping local engineering chapters/clubs.

Transportation Research Board committees are also a good way to stay involved in our industry. On the one hand, you can stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and research available, but on the other you can give back to your community by serving on any of these relevant committees in a number of ways. TRB webinars are a great way to obtain your continuing education credits for PE license renewal.

No matter where you live in Virginia, you can volunteer with VDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway program. I have spent a few hours a year helping clean up litter from various roadways over the years, and it feels great to help keep your community clean.

The most fun I’ve had in volunteering has definitely been helping coach my daughter’s softball and lacrosse teams. While some experience helps, you don’t need to be an expert to help your local little league in a variety of efforts that don’t have to include coaching. There is always a need for volunteers to help clean up, mow, maintain fields and equipment, etc. – it really doesn’t take that much time and frankly helping younger kids is much more rewarding.