NAFE Contributes to Forensic Engineering 
Development in Guatemala

September/October 2016

NSPE Today
NAFE Contributes to Forensic Engineering 
Development in Guatemala


Last year, while president of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers, I was contacted by a NAFE international affiliate about participating in a lecture series on forensic engineering in Guatemala City. I accepted the invitation of Rodolfo Hermosilla and this May had the honor of addressing about 30 engineers.

My presentation, “The Role and Responsibility of the Forensic Engineer in the 21st Century,” was delivered in Spanish.

Topics included:

  • How the investigation of failures provides the engineering community with valuable information to improve the safety of future projects, and how this is the most important contribution forensic engineers make to the engineering community;
  • The devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew in South Florida in 1992 and how the lessons learned led to an improved building code;
  • Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the importance of integrity in forensic engineering;
  • The National Academy of Forensic Engineers and requirements for various membership levels within it;
  • The NSPE Code of Ethics and the Guatemalan Engineering Code of Ethics.

Hermosilla also organized a breakfast with prominent local engineers in which I fielded questions on topics such as ethics, licensure, and credentialing. I discussed our licensure process, the value of NAFE’s board certification, and US forensic engineering practice.

My involvement with engineers in Guatemala was a great experience. I was impressed with the engineering talent there, and I look forward to assisting them in their planned development of a forensic engineering society.

NSPE member Jeffrey D. Armstrong, P.E., is president and founder of Armstrong Forensic Engineers and past president of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (, an NSPE chartered affinity group. This piece has been adapted with permission from his report to the NAFE board of directors.

Q+A With Rodolfo G. Hermosilla

Hermosilla is a forensic engineering consultant and structural designer working in Guatemala, the US, and other countries. He previously served as an engineering school dean in Guatemala and earned degrees from Harvard University, Harvard Business School, and Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. He is a licensed engineer under the laws of Guatemala and Honduras and a member of NSPE.

Why did you want Jeff Armstrong to participate in the lecture series?
He was the president of NAFE, so for a seminar it was very important to have someone like him. Also, I was aware that the practice of forensic engineering in the United States is different than in Guatemala. In the United States, the majority is related to legal matters. In Guatemala, it is related to investigation of failures and very few legal cases, if any.

What was the reaction from the Guatemalan engineers?
The subjects were very well accepted as the engineers participated, commenting and sharing similar experiences. Probably ethical engineering was the subject with more interaction, due to the fact that fraud and corruption is hitting hard the economies of many countries around the world.

It was mentioned as an important issue that many contracts that have been executed between government institutions and engineering firms, fraudulently and with a lack of ethics, [involved] bribing authorities that now are in prison.

What is the current status of forensic engineering in Guatemala and what do you hope to achieve by 
partnering with NAFE?
In Guatemala, forensic engineering has been practiced since the middle of the 20th century. However, the professional practice varies significantly. That is why it [is] so important to share professional practices in forensic engineering with professionals from [other] countries, helping [reduce] inherent risks in the social-economic development of any country.

An exchange of information, articles, cases, and/or discussions in any engineering subject is a must.

Anything else important to add?
Daily, weekly, and/or monthly, concerns have been raised about failures [that] occurred in infrastructure as well as in urban planning. Worldwide, forensic engineering has been [spotlighted] as a critical discipline in the 21st-century modern society, in order to evaluate, investigate, analyze, determine, and quantify the causes of failures. This is a very important issue. So, professionals with that experience have the obligation to prepare, train, and pass that experience to new generations of professionals.