Engineers are superheroes

On this month’s cover is a caped superhero battling killer microbes besetting a hospital. Today, a rising tide of microbial menaces threatens patients, staff and visitors with an increasing risk of contracting and spreading contagious, potentially lethal diseases inside and outside hospitals. What raises engineers to superhero status, in my book, is that these so-called superbugs are yet ...

09/01/2007


On this month’s cover is a caped superhero battling killer microbes besetting a hospital. Today, a rising tide of microbial menaces threatens patients, staff and visitors with an increasing risk of contracting and spreading contagious, potentially lethal diseases inside and outside hospitals. What raises engineers to superhero status, in my book, is that these so-called superbugs are yet another villain in the graphic novel of the buildings industry.

Imagine the story lines of such a novel featuring epic battles against superbugs, earthquakes, hurricanes, climate change, energy scarcity, water scarcity, noise, fires, floods, bio-terrorists, asthma and moisture-induced rot, mold and corrosion. And what superpowers do our heroes possess? They can harvest the sun for light and power, and apply fans, filters and ultraviolet light to route, contain and destroy microbes. They can wield fire and ice to manifest optimal temperatures, and they can configure computers to control and communicate. Engineers can engineer solutions to almost any problem.

Kryptonite lurks, however, in project corners as inadequate budgets and tight schedules, Dr. Doom lawyers and frequently changing codes and standards. And watch out for the wildcard owners, contractors and operators. Their bean counters and nay-sayers can dash good designs before they’re off the boards; poor installations can blow good designs apart, and improper operations and maintenance can lead to any system’s ultimate demise.

As every graphic-novel reader will agree, superheroes—like engineers—are not infallible nor are they always appreciated. Engineers—like superheroes—tend to go about incognito, somehow inherently masking their vital roles in society. Engineers work best in teams, with each person contributing his or her unique skill to overcome barriers and fulfill project objectives.

And what teams engineers can form! Engineering for buildings today employs more than physical sciences manifesting as chillers and boilers and fans and pumps—and the wires, motors, and power the systems need to function. Engineering for buildings also is about life sciences pertaining to health, comfort, bio-security and sustainability. And it’s the fun and fascinating world of computer science and information technology for all the sensors, controls, networks and software needed to orchestrate building systems and tie them into business systems and local communities. No one can master all of these fields; teaming is essential.

So hey, engineers, this cover is for you. Tear it off the magazine and put in on your office corkboard, wall or door. Take the cover home and show it to your family and friends—show them what you do for a living.

Send your questions and comments to Michael.Ivanovich@reedbusiness.com





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