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Editor's Note: A Pep Talk for Troubled Times

March 7, 2018
While politicians dither and delay, engineers act. So, look in the mirror. Proactive engineers may hold the answer to more problems than we can imagine.

"Engineer a solution."

We have all heard that phrase in some form or another, at work and possibly even at home. Why? Because the words go together. Indeed, “engineers” are problem-solvers. They find “solutions.” Period. 

It is your raison d’être.

Why do I bother pointing that out? To remind you how important you truly are in our society, especially in 2018. This month, as our winter of national discontent bleeds into an anxious spring of continued political disagreement, I feel compelled to remind myself, and hopefully all of you, that engineers may very well hold the answer to more problems than we might think. Even in the face of preventable tragedy in Parkland FL last month and the crushing sense of national helplessness, yet again, that still lingers in its wake.

But engineers are never truly helpless. Sure, they may be boxed in by bureaucracy and dwindling capital budgets, overworked and understaffed. But when the sun comes up tomorrow, they — you — are not the type to cynically throw up your hands and say, “What’s the use?”

Indeed, I was reminded of this at the AHR Expo in January where Honeywell Building Solutions demonstrated the “active shooter” response capabilities of its Command Control Suite (CCS) product for facilities managers at school districts and other at-risk commercial and industrial buildings. Of course, the fact that such a product exists, and that there are other competitors in a crowded field for such services should still give all of us pause. But at least it represents a proactive response to a national scourge that elected officials seem incapable of addressing.

While guns dominate the headlines, however, U.S. infrastructure remains perilously in need of a new, domestic ‘Marshall Plan’, focused on rebuilding and upgrading our own roads, bridges, power grid, and eroding water and sewer systems. (For a sobering look at municipal water systems, see Larry Clark’s Feb. 27 column, “Infrastructure 101.”)

But buildings, too, are changing dramatically, and engineers are making them more energy-efficient and sustainable, collaborating more often and more broadly to use Big Data and virtual simulations to inform smarter, faster and more cost-effective decisions. That theme emerges on several pages in our March issue, starting with the latest results of JBKnowledge Inc.’s 6th Annual Construction Technology Survey, sponsored by the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) and the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA). Similarly, the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) echoes those findings, arguing in a new white paper that consulting engineers now have the unprecedented opportunity to deliver buildings that are more responsive, interoperable, and durable. 

So, thank you. Despite all the hurdles and frustrations inhibiting progress, you engineers are still out there, actually trying to solve the problems that threaten future generations. While politicians dither and delay, engineers act.

Hmm, maybe it’s time a few more of you ventured into politics.

This editorial appears in the March 2018 edition of HPAC Engineering magazine.