Elevating the engineer’s role

Fire and life safety engineers have never been more important as they design today’s schools. The ability to communicate also ranks highly among consultants. Here’s a look at how to enhance both of these skills.

By Amara Rozgus, Editor in Chief October 30, 2015

The change in season always reminds me of two things: school and the need to reconnect with people.

The first topic, school, is frequently top-of-mind for anyone with children, or for engineers who design fire and life safety systems. The need for safer schools has been emphasized many times over the past year, although there is no simple answer to the ongoing safety dilemma of school shootings, which continues to plague our schools. So engineers do what they can to make the buildings as safe as possible.

This topic is covered in the articles “Fire protection changes in schools” and “Protecting our schools,” respectively. K-12 schools and college and university campuses have never had a more defined role in keeping the nation’s students safe, and the changes in fire protection and security requirements should be reviewed carefully.

To further muddy the waters, schools are not solely classrooms and gymnasiums; many buildings are becoming multi-use facilities with complexities for which engineers must design. My own high school, for example, has several new buildings that include more than classrooms—they house theaters, event spaces, and high-tech teaching labs.

According to the 2015 Fire & Life Safety study completed earlier this year, 52% of respondents specify, design, or make product selections in college/university buildings; 37% have the same responsibility in K-12 schools. Rightfully so, 99% of respondents said that product quality of fire/life safety products is of utmost importance in design. For more information about fire and life safety, visit www.csemag.com/2015FireLifeSafety. 

Reconnecting with people also is important this time of year, especially as we review accomplishments from the past year and look ahead to 2016. In a brief conversation I had with a young engineer at the 40 Under 40 awards event, we talked about the personal connection made with clients and colleagues as one of the most important parts of being a consultant. Technical prowess aside, without the ability to communicate, the consultant’s role is ineffective.

To help build communication skills, the Career Smart column and the Future of Engineering article both point to interpersonal skills required by professionals to succeed in this industry. The need to reconnect on a personal and professional level is vital to the success of a project, or to the overall accomplishments of a firm. 

Written communication—in the pages of a magazine or in an online exclusive—also allows building professionals to enhance their communication skills. If you are interested in working with the Consulting-Specifying Engineer editorial team on a technical article, boost your presence in the industry by contributing. Connect with me about your ideas at arozgus@cfemedia.com