Meeting the challenges of 2009


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On behalf of the editorial team of Consulting-Specifying Engineer , welcome to 2009.

It’s shaping up to be a tough year for national and global economies. Even though the forecasts don’t look so bad in terms of overall volume, it seems as if all the news sources are competing to deliver the grimmest message. As I wrote in December, I remain optimistic that the year won’t be as bad for engineering, especially if there is a focus on infrastructure in the economic stimulus packages being planned at the federal level. Judging from the rhetoric, the package would target schools, energy-efficiency programs, and sustainability initiatives, all of which are strong markets for consulting-specifying engineers.

For the latest construction news (that we could assemble by press time for January), please turn to the article by Reed Construction Data economist Jim Haughey on page 44. My spin on Haughey’s article is that although growth will suffer a steep decline, overall volume will remain high pretty high, and the renovation and retrofit market, which isn’t represented in his data, will substantially increase. Altogether, the nonresidential market should be pretty strong for the year.

The direction for 2009 was discernible early enough to inform our fiscal year planning in fall 2008, as we laid out a road map for what we would cover this year. Our research yielded four themes: energy efficiency and sustainability, renovations and retrofits, resiliency, and integration. Basically, in the face of a tough economy, owners are going to look for ways to save money, as I mentioned earlier, because they need to, and they will plan for natural catastrophes because they must.

The theme of integration has been playing for a decade, but its cadence has picked up recently as the movement hit electrical systems. Now we have intelligent switchgear and generators being networked with meters, sun control devices, lighting systems, HVAC, security, and fire systems. With green buildings, uptime, and commissioning as drivers, integration has not only breached the walls between engineering disciplines, but the walls between all professions involved with buildings and all phases of a building lifecycle. So, in June, we have an entire issue devoted to integration, as well as articles here and there during the year.

Another theme we are planning in 2009 is catastrophe planning. The floods, hurricanes, seismic events, and tornadoes that have been hitting the Unite States over the past few years have increased the interest in owners (and insurance companies) for making buildings more resilient to natural catastrophes. Their interest means new requirements and expectations for engineers—and new work. We’ll have spot coverage during the year and an in-depth supplement in July. The supplement will cover electrical, power, HVAC, and life-safety systems in case studies on data centers, campus systems, office buildings, and schools.

Heading into the new year, it’s obvious there will be a lot of changes and challenges to contend with. We’re here to help you through this magazine, as well as our electronic newsletters, webcasts, and website.

Good luck and take care.

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