December 28, 2011
This year has been tough—and terrific—on many levels. Some general issues didn’t change much: unemployment levels, political unrest in many parts of the world, and partisan fighting in the U.S. government.
In the building world, regulatory initiatives—particularly new and evolving federal air quality regulations and standards—have had a negative impact, creating a level of uncertainty for engineers. Energy legislation is ever-changing and legislative amendments impact how engineers design and build engineered systems.
Also, the competition for talent continues to be a challenge in the industry. Firms are looking for experienced engineers with specialized skills, but the work environment continues to change, and staffing continues to be an issue.
On the flipside, many things changed for the better on the engineering front. Engineers and building owners saw an uptick in government resources allocated toward energy efficiency (and an overall rise in demand for building efficiency).
Engineering firms are obtaining more revenue from retrofits and renovations, and maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO). New construction also is doing well. According to 2011 MEP Giants data, the MEP Giants firms cited new construction and retrofit/renovation as a larger source of revenue. On top of that, new construction accounted for nearly 80% of commissioning work done (see August and October 2011 issues, respectively, for full data).
Also in 2011, international engineering climbed. Firm leaders focused on the fact that we live in a global economy, and sought out new opportunities overseas. Though the commercial building market is also down in parts of Europe, it’s doing well in the Middle East, and positively soaring in places like China and Brazil.
Companies are holding onto cash, giving them the ability to expand their engineering reach through acquisitions or new partnerships, or pre-pay expenses for the next year. According to Mick Morrissey’s report in our August issue, global merger and acquisition activity has been high throughout 2011. From his perspective, this isn’t all bad, as larger firms have more and deeper resources and more visibility with lawmakers.
So where does this leave us for 2012? The educated guess: In a better place than in 2011, though we’ll still see unrest in many areas. And as new codes become the standard in 2012, engineers will have more to keep up with. Plus, an election year will cause gyrations in the economic market and in federal legislative decisions.
The real answer: Only time will tell. Good luck, and Happy New Year.
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