In 1983, Paris, France was the scene for a seminal moment in the history of geosynthetics. During a November meeting–the 30th anniversary of which falls on November 10–a number of the geosynthetics discipline’s “forefathers” established the International Geotextile Society (IGS)—later to be known as the International Geosynthetics Society. Their meeting brought to fruition ideas that had been exchanged in a few conference venues, in research centers, and via correspondence with practitioners, manufacturers, and other early stakeholders. By-laws were adopted and the first IGS Council was established.
The November 1983 Paris meeting was, in fact, the second time Paris hosted geosynthetics history. In April 1977, the words “geotextiles” and “geomembranes” were coined by Dr. J.P. Giroud in a paper presented at a unique conference on fabrics in geotechnics.
That 1977 event has since been recognized as the First International Conference on Geosynthetics (1 ICG). It led to another event in 1982 (Las Vegas) that became recognized as the 2nd ICG. The Las Vegas conference confirmed the industry interest in a common society. Leaders from the field left that event with the work items that they would subsequently finalize in Paris to create the IGS.
While some of the faces and companies in the field from 1977 and 1983 remain active and deeply influential, the discipline and the Society have undergone extraordinary change over the years. The IGS has provided a central place for knowledge transfer and community and helped precipitate the development of new materials and promotion of new technologies.
Also, the IGS has been indispensable in helping link the field of geosynthetics to affiliated geotechnical societies and sectors, and it has provided a steady, legitimizing, independent identity around which the field can coalesce.
The Society’s model has emphasized support of field participation, fostered a culture of volunteerism, and passed along a considerable amount of funding to regional activities rather than centralizing funds and activities. It is a model that stands as unique among most professional societies, as the IGS provides a strong central identity with little central overhead. In fact, the only full-time employee the Society has is its Secretariat (who works on an independent association management contract).
The impact of this model can be seen in the IGS’s high membership rate for a “niche” society: 38 chapters, 160+ corporate members, and approximately 3000 individual members.
In 2012, these groups held 25 technical conferences, 21 workshops, 26 short courses, and 12 main lectures. More than 220 meetings were involved (face-to-face and by phone/internet). In 2013, the numbers are expected to finish even higher, as roughly 120 technical events were expected. (See Russell Jones’s article “Summary of 2012 IGS Chapter Activities” in the July 2013 IGS News for a breakdown of these items.)
The International Geosynthetics Society has an extraordinary history. It is professional voice for what has rightly been called the only new class of construction materials to emerge in the 20th Century. The impact these materials have had on extending the lives of infrastructure, improving construction economics, and decreasing the carbon footprint of construction has been significant. And much of that success rests with the members of the IGS for the ways in which they work together for a common goal of building not just a market for their materials but establishing better engineering and construction techniques.
Geosynthetica is proud to be a member of the International Geosynthetics Society. We encourage our readers to join or renew their memberships (www.GeosyntheticsSociety.org) and become active participants in their regional or national chapters. Visit the Society website for more information.
Happy anniversary, IGS! Thank you to all the members, past, present and future.
REMINDER: 10 ICG
In 2014, the quadrennial ICG returns with Berlin taking center stage for 10 ICG (21-25 September 2014). This conference will be co-located with the German Geotechnical Society (DGGT) conference, which typically has 2000+ attendees on its own. 10 ICG promises to be a significant gathering for the IGS. http://www.10icg-berlin.com