Engineering superheroes

Building superheroes are all around us. Just ask an engineer, and they’ll pull out a cape

By Amara Rozgus May 15, 2020

The task of designing or retrofitting a building for occupancy is daunting. Engineers take an oath, not unlike doctors, to ensure what they’ve designed meets codes and standards and achieves or exceeds other goals, including sustainability benchmarks.

Whether it’s an electrical system to keep a data center running 24/7 or a fire and life safety system to ensure students are safe in a school, every design matters. No commercial building is exempt from keeping its occupants safe, comfortable and productive.

But what if the building’s design is truly about life and death? What level of stress and responsibility is placed on the shoulders of these designers? What happens when an engineered system or building design requires snap decisions that must be correct?

That’s when engineering superheroes come into play. While health care staff — along with many other essential workers — are at the front lines and are considered heroes in today’s COVID-19 chaos, there are other champions that have been working to ensure the buildings we work and play in meet the needs of their occupants.

Just last month, a webcast on power for emergency fire/life safety systems brought up a discussion of topics like mass notification systems, elevators and power supply. Without the proper design of these systems in buildings, those battling against the coronavirus in hospitals and health care facilities would be endangered in different ways. The presenters had a thoughtful discussion about how each of the buildings they’ve designed meets codes and standards, sometimes meeting specialty requirements.

And since mid-March, Consulting-Specifying Engineer has been focusing on how the various aspects of technology, modeling, design and business trends will affect consulting engineers’ work immediately and in the uncertain COVID-19 future. Superheroes have been answering questions, supplying examples and providing research to ensure buildings are designed the right way in the post-coronavirus world. A weekly newsletter shares the best of these tips.

Even better, we get a glimpse this month of the newest batch of superheroes, the 2020 40 Under 40 winners. These dynamic players already have capes in some cases. Others are just now flexing their muscles, showing us how their work might save us tomorrow, whether it’s through innovative designs, energy-efficient strategies or unique fire/life safety systems.

While we’re marveling at the hospital buildings that are saving thousands of lives thanks, in part, to their effective design, or learning from those who are teaching us new ways to look at buildings in a COVID-19 world or reading about up-and-coming future leaders, we must all remember one thing. Let’s thank these superheroes — no matter what type of cape they wear — for their tireless work at keeping us all safe.


Amara Rozgus
Author Bio: Amara is the Editor-in-Chief/Content Strategy Leader for Consulting-Specifying Engineer.