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The Future of the AEC industry, as Predicted by 12 Engineers
The Future of the AEC industry, as Predicted by 12 Engineers

This year marks Primera’s 30th anniversary. As we’ve reminisced about the past three decades, we’re reminded of how far the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry has come in a relatively short amount of time. Just imagine, in 1987 there were no computers, no internet or email, no mobile devices, not even voicemail. It’s hard to picture getting anything done now without our current technologies. Now let’s fast forward into the next 30 years. With the rapid pace that our world, and the AEC industry is changing, how different will the landscape look?

Even within the next 10 years, we are going to see more change, and at a faster pace, than we ever have. With that change comes opportunity – opportunity to create value and differentiation in new ways. We asked several of our experts to share insights on the future of the industry and what opportunities they’re most looking forward to. Here are some of their thoughts:


Photovoltaic Power Generation
Currently the technology is expensive, but with government subsidies, manufacturers designing more efficient products, and more manufacturer competition, I expect to see the cost become very reasonable. I would not be surprised to see PV systems installed on most homes and businesses in the next 30 years. // Jason DeRosa, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Senior Electrical Engineer

One Eye on the Past, one Eye on the Future

In my opinion, fire protection research is trending in two directions…the old and the new. First, we need to consider aging equipment. Electricity and fire sprinklers have only been in wide use for roughly a century, so we as engineers need to start thinking about how to deal with these systems and evaluate at what point an aged system becomes a danger. Secondly, as materials and furnishings change and become more sustainable, and, as buildings move more and more to open concepts, we need to ensure that fire and life safety designs provide the same level of protection since materials burn differently, and buildings are less compartmentalized. // Amanda Beck Larkin, PE, CET, CFPS, Fire Protection Engineer
Maximizing Optimization
As the AEC industry continues to be an under-saturated job market year-over-year, technology and employee utilization will be required for maximizing optimization. This will occur through continued use and advances in GPS, drafting, communication, and calculation programs, making them easily and readily available for all. // Doug Keppy, PE, Civil Engineer
A Spotlight on Resiliency
Resiliency for infrastructure and building design is an emerging trend in AEC. With increased frequency of catastrophic weather events, we need to change our designs to protect and maintain building fabric and ensure that critical infrastructure remains operational. // Lourdes Gonzalez, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, ND, Senior Vice President
Opportunities for Veterans in Engineering
Approximately five years ago, the Illinois Tollway (ISTHA) instituted a new contract goal to give a small percentage of all their awarded contracts to Veteran Owned Businesses (VOBs) and the State of Illinois followed suit. Now both ISTHA and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are dedicating percentages of each of their contracts to VOBs. It’s designed to inspire veterans of foreign affair wars to do something challenging and rewarding and start their own businesses. The set-aside provides Veterans with a small assurance that their business has a good chance of thriving. It’s a model that shows everyone in the State that veterans are extraordinary people who should be rewarded for the unique sacrifices they have made to ensure that our American Freedom stays free. As a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, I applaud these agencies and all the engineers that leverage the opportunity to start their own VOB. // Chad Dillavou, PE, PTOE, Civil Engineer
Game-Changing Technology
In this industry, there is always a need for new technologies, reducing project costs, and improving quality, all while also increasing productivity. Today, leading technical companies are looking into drones to increase productivity. For example, Amazon is now using drones as a mode of delivery. I’ve already seen the use of drones at construction sites for taking aerial pictures. These are the ‘outside-the-box’ ideas that we as engineers need to be thinking about. // Achila Jayasuriya, Protection & Controls Engineer
The LED Revolution Continues
The current on-going changes in lighting and lighting controls are huge. The LED revolution has been a big disruptor to the lighting industry and will most likely be followed by a major controls revolution as well. // Deborah Steimel-Clair, PE, LC, Lighting Studio Manager
Cloud-based Controls and Analytics
Cloud-based controls and analytics will affect not just HVAC building automation systems but just about every aspect of a building. From the inception of building controls – from pneumatics, to electrical, to microprocessor-based systems – the devices that controlled pieces of equipment resided in the building itself. When DDC (Direct Digital Control) systems surfaced in the 1980s, monitoring of these system via phone modems came into vogue. As internet communication became mainstream the monitoring of these systems became easier, but actual control decisions still resided in building controllers. The current trend is to still use building-based controllers with embedded control logic to control equipment, but transfer large amounts of point data (schedules, on/off statuses, temperatures, pressures, etc.) to the cloud for analytics. In essence, one-way communication. There are some cloud-based companies that offer two-way communication in the form of user feedback (think ‘I’m too hot’, ‘too cold’, or ‘just right’) to adjust system operation. As network communications become more and more stable, eventually some, if not all, control logic will be cloud-based. // Frank Moccio, Mechanical Engineer
Increase in Design-Build Project Delivery
A continuing and growing trend in the AEC industry is the use of the Design-Build project delivery method. With general and trade contractors hiring more technical and experienced engineers to support their in-house design projects, the fight for design work between the two industries will continue to grow. // Craig Anderson, PE, Vice President and Electrical Group Lead
BIM as the New Norm
Building Information Modeling (BIM) will continue to grow and eventually become the accepted standard instead of the leading-edge exception. From conception all the way to demolition, all project information and documentation will be live, interlinked, in the cloud, and on demand. // Robert Oswald, CAD Drafter
Dedicated Outside Air and Variable Refrigerant Flow in HVAC
For HVAC design, the growing trend seems to be Dedicated Outside Air handling units coupled with Variable Refrigerant Flow. This is similar to a split air conditioning system with multiple indoor units, coupled with an outdoor air cooled condensing unit. // John Palasz, PE, HFDP, Mechanical Engineer
Proper Preparation
In my opinion, the most emerging question in the industry, and one that we need to start giving thought to, is this: Can the industry supply the needed resources to match what is likely to be an extensive infrastructure program being proposed by the government? // Bill Taylor, Project Manager


The Future of the AEC industry, as Predicted by 12 Engineers

Alternative energy sources, advances in technology, and cloud-based controls are just a few of the emerging trends that will have a significant impact on the future of the AEC industry in the coming years.