Get shovel-ready for the new economy



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The term “shovel-ready” became popular after the Obama administration announced that billions of dollars would be injected into the construction market to help resuscitate a dying economy. Shovel-ready projects —those that municipalities had on their books and were ready to begin after the dollars were secured—were given priority.


While some economists are pointing to data indicating the national economic recession might be over, the commercial construction industry is far from feeling the impacts of recovery. It might not be until Q3 of 2010 when things begin to turn around, and it might take several years to get to pre-recession construction levels.


What is certain is that when the market does come back, it won’t be the same market. Because millions of people lost their jobs and thousands of businesses closed their doors for good, there is a surfeit of vacant retail, office, and multi-family residential buildings. Surviving businesses, looking to save money, are allowing workers to work from home; and workers, looking to save money, are seeking jobs closer to home. Businesses, governments, and institutions have burned through their cash, and they will husband resources for a long time before investing in capital projects. All of these things will affect the need for buildings in the post-recession economy.


But the market will come back, and engineering firms and engineers need to be shovel-ready when it does, and for whatever form it takes. During the recession, it’s imperative that skills and internal processes are redeveloped or sharpened. New markets and new relationships need to be explored. When new money hits the streets, there will be a lot of competition for it, so you and your firms need to have planted seeds for the new economy well in advance.


And that is the focus of the essays in this issue of Consulting-Specifying Engineer —to encourage you to think about and prepare for the new economy. The essays address the future in terms of the next few years . They scope out what firms should be doing right now, such as maintaining investments in training and modernizing processes with BIM software. They discuss energy and environmental policy, reducing these complex entities to simpler, actionable constructs. They discuss where technologies for lighting , fire/life-safety , and mission critical systems are going in the near-term, and some important codes and standards.


We hope you enjoy the change of cadence from our regular lineup of technical articles, and we urge you to contribute your own thoughts as letters to the editor or online in our Website’s TalkBack utility located at the bottom of this article.


Meanwhile, on behalf of the team at Consulting-Specifying Engineer , we wish you a safe, fun, and restful holiday season, and we look forward to you joining us in 2010.


Send your questions and comments to:

Here are some links for further reading on how the U.S. economy got shovel-ready for 2009 and how we will continue to move forward in 2010:

Layoffs over 3 million during the recession, Wall Street Journal, as of February 2009
Chart from NY Times showing which jobs were lost and which grew
Tri-City Herald: Jobs lost in recession may not return
Bankruptcies chart from NY Times --Chart indicates about 4,000 businesses per quarter going bankrupt over what would be a normal rate prior to the recession.


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