Four trends to watch in 2015

Engineers should keep tabs on these four trends as they start planning for 2015. Things to watch: water, workforce development, smart technologies, and the health care industry.

By Amara Rozgus, Consulting-Specifying Engineer December 24, 2014

Though January is the most popular time for people to make predictions or resolutions for the new year, December seems like a better time to get a jump start on next year’s goals. Codes and standards changes are triggering new developments, so be sure to work with and stay on top of updates from NFPA, ASHRAE, International Code Council, local jurisdictions, and other organizations. Here are four trends to watch, in no particular order.

Water and energy: Energy-efficient buildings are certainly not news; they’re considered the norm for most engineering projects. The scarcity of water, however, should be cause for concern for many building owners and engineers (see the July 2014 cover story “Efficient building water use”). While municipalities, counties, and states have been watching the water crisis for years, local legislators and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) are now pushing harder for water-efficient fixtures, water re-use systems, and general conservation in nonresidential buildings. California—typically at the forefront of energy measures—includes several municipalities with strict water conservation measures. The use of stormwater, grey water, and green roofs or sustainable outdoor landscaping is being considered more in commercial buildings.

Hiring and succession planning: Based on research conducted by Consulting-Specifying Engineer, about half of this audience is older than 55, with nearly 20% older than 65. Assuming that many of you will retire in the next 10 years (or at least semi-retire), that leaves a gaping hole in the workforce. A sole proprietor in this age bracket is likely looking at selling his or her firm; larger firms are hand-picking leaders from their mid- and entry-level engineers to lead the next generation. To start to fill this gap, more hiring and mentoring of young engineers must occur.

Smart technologies: My washer and dryer tell me—via an app—what’s happening in the laundry room. Like consumers, commercial building owners are demanding more smart building technologies. Again, this isn’t new, but the onslaught of new products that can be controlled, monitored, and managed by smart technologies will only continue to increase. These include products ranging from lighting controls to demand response electricity programs to apps that manage a building from across the planet. Note: The demand for more data centers will increase to keep up with this increase in computing power.

Hospital and health care spending: As mentioned in this column in November (“Health care is on the brink of change”), more health care facilities will be built over the next several years to meet the demand of the changing health care marketplace. This requires a specialized and skilled engineering team, and more work in underserved areas.

If you’d like to discuss any of these ideas with me, please find me at the ASHRAE Winter Conference and AHR Expo in Chicago in January, or e-mail me at