When my daughter was in middle school she toured Europe with a choral group. It was an exchange program, so the kids stayed with approved local host families. My daughter was worried about the six-week trip. A rather picky eater, she was convinced she would starve due to the lack of good food.

She returned as a gastronomical connoisseur. She first “discovered” Italian restaurants in France, Germany, and Austria. My daughter knew she could always have spaghetti or pizza. But thanks to the host families' nightly offerings, she acquired a taste and love for a wide range of foods. I created a monster, as now she drags me to her new favorite restaurant on each college visit.

Her conversion from picky to gourmet offers a good lesson. When we take the time to experience what the world has to offer, we invite new insights and outlooks to become part of our lives.

Next month the world of global concrete design will be there for us to partake near Washington, D.C. Thousands of practitioners from around the world will have their opportunity to experience the Olympics of concrete design and practices.

The International Federation for Structural Concrete (fib) is holding the Third International fib Congress (www.fib2010washington.com), May 29–June 2, at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C. Held only once every four years, the 2010 event is being hosted in the U.S. by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI). PCI has combined its own Annual Convention and Bridge Conference with the Congress to create an even more comprehensive program. This is the first time the fib Congress will be held in this country.

Program organizers choose an appropriate theme, Think Globally, Build Locally, to help focus the more than 500 peer-reviewed papers from 45 countries. In his welcome to his members, Jim Toscas, PCI's president, explains the meaning of the convention's theme: ”It's an essential tenet of sustainable design and construction, which represents the next stage in the evolution of design.”

I'm sure Toscas was thinking back to Sir Patrick Geddes when he wrote this. The early 20th century urban planner is often referred to as an inspirational source for the slogan, Think Globally, Act Locally, a key principle of the sustainability movement. In his time, Geddes was among the world's best urban planners. And if he was designing today, I'm sure he'd agree with the idea of building with local materials, such as concrete with its other inherent sustainable advantages. Thus, the technical program will include the latest in sustainable design concepts and experiences.

Next month's event also reminds us that concrete is global. I agree with Toscas when he says, “Science and engineering know no national boundaries.” It will draw experts who will share our ideas and thus, advance the whole of our industry and of society. Each year, we are becoming more open to accepting technologies and methods, regardless of origin. The Congress offers us a chance to taste what the world has to offer, without venturing too far from home.

I hope to see you there.