Moving Forward By Looking Back
Thirteen years ago, the editors of Consulting-Specifying Engineer asked me to elaborate on the challenges facing consulting engineers in the decade ahead. With a look toward the future and an emphasis on building solutions that blend the components of the interior and the exterior, "Engineering Challenges for the Built Environment in the Environmental Decade," appeared in May 1991.
Thirteen years ago, the editors of Consulting-Specifying Engineer asked me to elaborate on the challenges facing consulting engineers in the decade ahead.
In 1990, the 101st Congress passed a resolution designating 1991 the "Year of the Infrastructure." I reflected on that and said, "While it is essential that we rehabilitate our nation's infrastructure in order to restore our competitiveness in the world economic order, I believe the 1990s will be regarded as the environmental decade."
My goal at the time was to investigate how the consulting engineer's design of buildings can be sensitive to both the indoor and the outdoor environment. The article attempted to show that solutions require both the innovative thinking of engineers and support from all parties involved in creating and using buildings.
At that time, I felt that consulting engineers had to face the issues of how building systems affect both internal and external environments. I looked specifically at the following:
Societal and legislative trends including the impact of legislation and litigation.
Indoor environment and air quality including a definition of IAQ, the breadth of the IAQ problem and how to prevent it.
External environmental issues, with a focus on CFCs and the ozone layer, the reduction of CFC use and possible CFC substitutes.
How building systems affect both the internal and external environments will continue to be the central issue for consulting engineers. And moving forward, the challenges that engineers will face fall into the following overarching categories: sustainability, reliability, security and liability.
Over the last decade, the focus on how buildings interact with both the internal and external environments has been referred to as "sustainable design," a more holistic approach than earlier solutions. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program seek to capture the myriad factors that go into making a building more environmentally friendly.
As the USGBC states: "LEED provides a complete framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainability goals. Based on well-founded scientific standards, LEED emphasizes state-of-the-art-strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. LEED recognizes achievements and promotes expertise in green building through a comprehensive system offering project certification, professional accreditation, training and practical resources."
Additionally, the USGBC states that LEED was created to establish a common standard of measurement for green building; promote integrated, whole-building design practices; recognize environmental leadership in the building industry; stimulate green competition; raise consumer awareness about green building; and transform the building market.
It is clear that USGBC and its LEED certification program are having an impact on the building community (see "A/E Firms Going Green," p. 42). The 2nd annual USGBC International Green Building Conference & Expo in November of 2003 drew more than 4,000 participants.
The organization is exerting an influence on government as well. For example, on June 10, 2004, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced that all newly constructed public buildings in his city would be LEED-certified in order to conserve energy, reduce costs and ensure healthier indoor environments.
Sustainability is certainly becoming a standard for new projects. But there is another concern of equal importance to clients. Along with the desire for ideal environments, they want utmost reliability in critical infrastructure.
During the past decade, our economy has become more and more reliant on virtually instantaneous data and information. How many of us can go a day—much less a few hours—without our e-mail? The term "critical facilities" has grown to encompass almost all facilities that house people.
The August 2003 blackout on the East Coast showed us all how fragile and vulnerable our electrical systems are—and how costly disruptions can be. This event, and an increased legal and legislative awareness, have lead many owners and consulting engineers to focus greatly on the reliability of facilities.
At Syska Hennessy, we developed a tool that we call the Critical Facilities Balance Sheet. We use it to assess the ability of our clients' facilities to provide a high level of reliability. It was developed as a result their need to better understand the reliability of their facilities, as there has been ever-increasing pressure on them to avoid operations outages.
The issues discussed so far, sustainability and reliability, are both concerns that affect the welfare and security of a facility and its occupants. This leads us to another major challenge ahead for consulting engineers: life safety.
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, along with the anthrax scare that immediately followed, have put the issue of security front and center in the minds of building occupants. Protecting air and water resources has become a major priority for local governments and utilities and has gained greater prominence with private owners and clients.
Multiple resources have been devoted to understanding potential threats and the steps necessary to provide adequate protection for all facilities. The National Security Agency has doubled the amount spent on security projects between 2000 and 2003. In fiscal 2003, NSA executed about 43,000 contracts and 21,000 purchase orders. In fact, the level of federal spending on homeland security highlights the magnitude of the issue, with spending included in the 2003 Homeland Security bill only a fraction of the money being spent on security by the economy as a whole.
But while security has become a key issue with facility owners and the public, I offer a word of caution here. Before building system designers take any concrete action to prepare a facility for emergencies, it's important to remember that any approach must be reasonable in terms of feasibility and cost. People may point out that with the current state of our technology, we can build structures to withstand just about anything a terrorist can do. However, the problems with this strategy are the high cost of building these structures and the unappealing environments they offer.
The challenges discussed so far are all about keeping people and businesses healthy and content. But these aren't the only issues to be faced by the 21st century consulting engineer.
Legislation and litigation
Thirteen years ago, I highlighted two examples of legislation that had an impact on consulting engineers: California's Proposition 65 and the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) of 1986. I also looked at how litigation can shape engineering design practice and pointed to how IAQ litigation had been sensitizing members of the building community who might become potential defendants.
Today, that trend continues unabated. In fact, in many respects it has increased. Recent legislation and litigation have reinforced the notion that the focus on the environment, reliability and security will not decline. In fact, they have come to be regarded as fundamental social issues. We will see a heightened awareness of possible dangers and increasing attention to the ethical and moral responsibility of the engineer to take care for the environment. The public will insist on environmentally safe and secure places to work, play and live.
For reasons of health, ethics, public relations and legal pressures, more building owners will have to deal responsibly with environmental, reliability and security hazards. Going forward, legislation and litigation will continue to play a large role in shaping these issues and how consulting engineers must address them. And this will occur in strange and often unintended ways.
For example, mission-critical operations and the facilities that house them have historically been the exclusive domain of IT personnel, facility managers and operating executives. This is no longer the case. Reliability, uptime, flexibility, security and controls related to such operations and facilities have now emerged as an overriding concern in the executive suites and board rooms of major organizations. In addition to the growing recognition that failures at these facilities may have profound repercussions far beyond the host organization, new regulations and a landmark court ruling have dramatically elevated the standards for executive office and board member involvement.
A well-publicized Delaware court decision is being trumpeted as an accompaniment to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002—the federal legislation intended to guard against corporate corruption and foster accountability—and industry-specific regulations, all of which are mean to regulate boardroom ethics. The Delaware court established a new standard for directors' duties to actively monitor corporate operations. Setting aside the historical protection afforded by the standard of the "business judgment rule," the court found that directors were negligent because they relied upon management and corporate policies and procedures to control risks, rather than fulfilling a fiduciary duty to be active monitors of corporate operations. The court finding was that directors allowed a situation to develop and continue that exposed the corporation to risk and enormous legal liability. The assertion of this legal principle by a chancery court, applied in a jurisdiction generally viewed as most favorable to corporations, raises the bar for executive suite and director level knowledge, involvement and monitoring of the operations and facilities housing mission-critical activities.
Finally, raising the issue of mission-critical activities brings us back to the role of information technology in the life of a consulting engineer.
Computing solutions and information technology have and will continue to have a profound impact on the way engineers carry out their jobs. Not only will they influence the way we communicate, but as the tools for exploring system options and more sophisticated modeling tools are developed, more effective and responsive design and systems can be created. The work of the International Alliance for Interoperability ( www.iai-na.org ) to develop a standard, universal framework to enable and encourage universal information sharing and interoperability throughout all phases of the building life cycle.
The development of computational tools, such as computational fluid dynamics modeling, has allowed engineers to explore new and innovative solutions to many problems that, in the past, were only solved by trial and error.
These tools and the way they impact both solutions and the way in which engineers interact with each other and their clients will only increase in the pace of change.
Looking backwards and forward
I've tried to look both back and ahead to gain some insight on what issues and challenges the consulting engineering will face in the years ahead. I think that while some of the issues have changed, my basic premises of 13 years ago still hold. Engineers will increasingly have to deal with environmental issues, both indoors and out.
To cover the entire range of issues facing us today would have been beyond the space available for this article. The issues I selected are representative of the complexity and interrelatedness of various aspects of our profession. They show that single solutions to the problems do not exist. They show that if the problems are to be solved, we must develop coordinated approaches to them. They must be viewed not in isolation, but in conjunction with the other issues.
Property owners and building managers must recognize the significance of the issues and must be ready to implement the steps necessary to solve them and to bear the additional costs associated with the fixes. If they are unwilling to do so, then legislative action will be required, or serious litigation consequences may result.
Therefore, consulting engineers will have to play a dual role in the resolution of environmental issues. They must turn their talents to finding integrated and innovative solutions to the problems and they must become politically active to ensure that the solutions are implemented.
A/E Firms Going Green
The number of A/E designers who have become LEED-accredited professionals continues to grow. The following is a sample of major engineering design firms with a large percentage of these professionals on staff:
Source: Building Design & Construction 2004 Giants Survey
leo a daly
Flack + Kurtz
Einhorn Yaffee Prescott
Hammel, Green and Abrahamson
Syska Hennessy Group
R.G. Vanderweil Engineers
2004 CSE Giants: An Introduction
There has been considerable movement of firms up and down our 2004 Giants Report—our annual ranking of U.S. engineering firms based on M/E design revenue. While it's difficult to draw any clear conclusions from a comparison of this year's ranking with last year's, it suggests some major changes.
Many of the respondents reported mergers and acquisitions. While these are too numerous to list here, some of the major acquisitions affect the Report. For example, Boise-based Blue Chip Engineering, which was #94 last year, merged with Power Engineers, Hailey, Idaho. An even more interesting development was the acquisition by Paulus, Sokolowski and Sartor, LLC, Warren, N.J., of another long-time CSE Giant, Boston-based Bard, Rao + Athanas. Naturally, the acquisition has catapulted PS&S up the list, from #36 in 2003 to #7 this year. Finally, Lockwood Greene, Spartanburg, S.C. was acquired by engineering giant CH2M Hill, Denver, which last participated in our Giants ranking in 2001.
It should be mentioned that a number of design firms that have participated in the past chose to opt out this year for various reasons. Among the regular participants who are absent this year are: Heery International, Malcolm Pirnie, Burgess + Niple, Kling and Brinjac. If your feel that your firm should be on our Giants Report, please contact Scott Siddens email@example.com.
2004 Giants Report
Type of Firm
Total Revenue (millions $U.S.)
2003 M/E Design Revenue
2004 M/E Design Revenue
* Previous ranking; — Did not participate in 2003
URS Corporation, San Francisco
Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, Mo.
Lockwood Greene, Spartanburg, S.C.
Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., New York
Carter & Burgess, Inc., Fort Worth, Texas
Syska Hennessy Group, Inc., New York
Paulus, Sokolowski, and Sartor, LLC, Warren, N.J.
R. W. Beck, Inc., Seattle
Power Engineers, Inc., Hailey, Idaho
Affiliated Engineers, Inc., Madison, Wis.
R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, Boston
Leo A Daly, Omaha
Cosentini Associates, New York
Stanley Consultants, Inc., Muscatine, Iowa
The Benham Companies, Inc., Oklahoma City (formerly Atkins Americas)
Smith Seckman Reid, Inc., Nashville
Flack + Kurtz Inc., New York
TLC Engineering for Architecture, Orlando, Fla.
SSOE, Inc., Toledo, Ohio
STV Group, Inc., Douglassville, Pa.
Wink Incorporated, New Orleans
Environmental Systems Design, Inc., Chicago
The RJA Group, Inc., Chicago
Clark, Richardson & Biskup, Kansas City, Mo.
Sebesta Blomberg & Associates, Inc., Roseville, Minn.
The Austin Company, Cleveland
Merrick & Company, Aurora, Colo.
Henderson Engineers, Inc., Lenexa, Ks.
CUH2A, Princeton, N.J.
Cannon Design, Buffalo, N.Y.
M-E Engineers, Inc., Wheat Ridge, Colo.
EYP Mission Critical Facilities, New York
Newcomb & Boyd, Atlanta
Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, Albany, N.Y.
Joseph R. Loring & Associates, New York
Clive Samuels and Associates, Inc., Princeton, N.J.
Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon, Inc., Nashville
KJWW Engineering Consultants, PC, Rock Island, Ill.
Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates, Butler, Pa.
HDR Architecture, Inc., Omaha
Wick Fisher White Engineers, Philadelphia
A. Epstein and Sons International, Inc., Chicago
HarleyEllis, Southfield, Mich.
Raymond Professional Group, Inc., Chicago
W.H. Linder & Assocs., Metairie, La.
Ross & Baruzzini, Inc., Webster Groves, Mo.
Robert Derector Associates, New York
Michaud Cooley Erickson, Minneapolis
H.F. Lenz Company, Johnstown, Pa.
Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Mattern, Roanoke, Va.
Teng & Associates, Inc., Chicago
GRG Consulting Engineers, Inc., Maitland, Fla.
Heapy Engineering LLC, Dayton, Ohio
Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc., Minneapolis
Peter Basso Associates, Inc., Troy, Mich.
Mazzetti & Associates, Inc., San Francisco
Interface Engineering, Portland, Ore.
GHT Limited, Arlington, Va.
M/E Engineering, P.C.. Rochester, N.Y.
MKK Consulting Engineers, Inc., Englewood, Colo.
James Posey Associates, Inc., Baltimore
KTA Group, Inc., Herndon, Va.
Richard D. Kimball Company, Inc., Andover, Mass.
Dewberry, Fairfax, Va.
Bridgers & Paxton Consulting Engineers, Inc., Albuquerque
RobsonWoese, Inc., Syracuse, N.Y.
Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, St. Louis
Lilker Associates Consulting Engineers, New York
PWI Engineering, Philadelphia
RTKL Associates, Inc., Baltimore
The RMH Group, Inc., Lakewood, Colo.
Symmes Maini & McKee Associates, Cambridge, Mass.
Clark-Nexsen Architecture & Engineering, Norfolk, Va.
Morris, Johnson & Associates, Inc., Eatontown, N.J.
Fanning/Howey Associates, Celina, Ohio
Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., Detroit
The Durrant Group, Dubuque, Iowa
Spectrum Engineers, Salt Lake City
DiClemente Siegel Design Inc., Southfield, Mich.
Gage-Babcock and Associates, Chantilly, Va.
P2S Engineering, Inc., Long Beach, Calif.
Lizardos Engineering Associates, P.C., Mineola, N.Y.
Jordan & Skala Engineers, Inc., Norcross, Ga.
Bala Consulting Engineers, Inc., Wynnewood, Pa.
Kamm Consulting, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fla.
WD Partners, Columbus, Ohio
Wiley & Wilson, Lynchburg, Va.
William Tao & Assocs., St. Louis
Goetting & Associates, Inc., San Antonio, Texas
Korda/Nemeth Engineering, Inc., Columbus, Ohio
Optimation Technology, Rush, N.Y.
Ellerbe Becket, Minneapolis
DBR Engineering Consultants, Houston, Texas
O'Dea, Lynch, Abbattista, Hawthorne, N.Y.
The Schemmer Associates Inc., Omaha
Arnold & O'Sheridan, Inc., Madison, Wis.
P2RS Group, Inc., Albuquerque
2004 Giants Report
A. Epstein and Sons International, Inc.
Affiliated Engineers, Inc.
Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.
Arnold & O'Sheridan, Inc.
Austin Company, The
Bala Consulting Engineers, Inc.
Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon, Inc.
Benham Companies, Inc., The
Bridgers & Paxton Consulting Engineers, Inc.
Burns & McDonnell
Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates
Carter & Burgess, Inc.
Clark, Richardson & Biskup
Clark-Nexsen Architecture & Engineering
Clive Samuels and Associates, Inc.
DBR Engineering Consultants
DiClemente Siegel Design Inc.
Durrant Group, The
Einhorn Yaffee Prescott
Environmental Systems Design, Inc.
EYP Mission Critical Facilities
Flack + Kurtz Inc.
Gage-Babcock and Associates
Goetting & Associates, Inc.
GRG Consulting Engineers, Inc.
H.F. Lenz Company
Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc.
Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Mattern
HDR Architecture, Inc.
Heapy Engineering LLC
Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum
Henderson Engineers, Inc.
James Posey Associates, Inc.
Jordan & Skala Engineers, Inc.
Joseph R. Loring & Associates
Kamm Consulting, Inc.
KJWW Engineering Consultants, PC
Korda/Nemeth Engineering, Inc.
KTA Group, Inc.
Leo A Daly
Lilker Associates Consulting Engineers
Lizardos Engineering Associates, P.C.
M/E Engineering, P.C.
Mazzetti & Associates, Inc.
M-E Engineers, Inc.
Merrick & Company
Michaud Cooley Erickson
MKK Consulting Engineers, Inc.
Morris, Johnson & Associates, Inc.
Newcomb & Boyd
O'Dea, Lynch, Abbattista
P2RS Group, Inc.
P2S Engineering, Inc.
Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc.
Paulus, Sokolowski, and Sartor, LLC
Peter Basso Associates, Inc.
Power Engineers, Inc.
R. W. Beck, Inc.
R.G. Vanderweil Engineers
Raymond Professional Group, Inc.
Richard D. Kimball Company, Inc.
RJA Group, Inc., The
RMH Group, Inc., The
Robert Derector Associates
Ross & Baruzzini, Inc.
RTKL Associates, Inc.
Schemmer Associates Inc., The
Sebesta Blomberg & Associates, Inc.
Smith Seckman Reid, Inc.
Stanley Consultants, Inc.
STV Group, Inc.
Symmes Maini & McKee Associates
Syska Hennessy Group, Inc.
Teng & Associates, Inc.
TLC Engineering for Architecture
W.H. Linder & Assocs.
Wick Fisher White Engineers
Wiley & Wilson
William Tao & Assocs.