American Society of Civil Engineers

The Influence of Engineering Organization on Design and Construction Processes at Tennessee Valley Authority Dams of the 1930s

by A. B. Liel, (Assitant Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309. E-mail:
Section: New Research and Novel Applications, pp. 2320-2331, (doi:

     Access full text
     Purchase Subscription
     Permissions for Reuse  

Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Structures Congress 2011
Abstract: This study examines engineering design processes and organization at the Tennessee Valley Authority in its early years from 1933 to 1936. During this time, Norris and Wheeler dams were constructed and plans and designs were begun for several additional dams. The TVA experience provides insights into how design processes evolved and were managed in a large engineering organization. A particularly innovative decision was the choice to build TVA dams by force account, i.e. by hiring their own employees, rather than by selecting contractors through a traditional bidding process. TVA engineers believed this approach would reduce overall design and construction costs, as well as reduce time to completion. Case studies of civil engineering history, like this one, provide an important tool for introducing students to design processes and engineering decision making.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Tennessee Valley Authority