Elsie Eaves joined ENR in 1926, five years after the magazine introduced its Construction Cost Index, but she soon made them her own. "Elsie Eaves was the one who made ENR's cost indexes the industry standard," says Ken Humphreys, the retired executive director of the American Association of Cost Engineers, of which Eaves was a founding member, in 1956. She was one of the first women to become a civil engineer and played a prominent role in the construction industry, but none more important than developing the esteem and relevance of ENR's construction cost indexes.
For three decades, she was the manager of ENR's Business News Dept., where she pioneered ways of measuring the market for construction materials and wages. Eaves made the first national inventory of municipal and industrial sewage-disposal facilities, in 1929. From 1933-35, she organized and directed an inventory of needed construction projects that could go ahead if federal funding were provided. This helped Congress pass the Federal Loan-Grant legislation used to revive construction activity and break the Great Depression.
At the height of her career, she oversaw 25 members of ENR's Business News Dept., Construction Methods & Equipment magazine and 125 construction-project field reporters collecting information.
In 1927, Eaves became the first woman to be a full member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. After retiring from ENR in 1963, she served as an adviser on housing costs to the National Commission on Urban Problems and, in her role as a International Executive Service Corps volunteer, to the government of Iran on construction cost indexes.