Last year, SSOE Group saved an automotive client more than $250,000 by streamlining how data from the client’s manufacturing structures were gathered, using laser scanning, innovative workflows, and technology that converts point clouds to Revit models that can be imported to structural analysis software.
Innovation continues to be engineering firms’ best foot forward to remain competitive and relevant. And sometimes, “innovation” is resolutely basic: For a series of manhole inspections it performed for Carnegie Mellon University, Wiley|Wilson attached a camera controlled by a smartphone app to a 9-foot-long selfie stick for 360-degree information capture. KCI Technologies piloted AM Gradiometry technology, a subsurface investigation methodology that harnesses the power of AM-band radio to identify and map underground infrastructure and anomalies.
Admittedly, most other innovations engineers came up with weren’t as rudimentary. Jensen Hughes launched a new software program, HazAdvisr, that quickly categorizes chemical hazards and applies them to a project to achieve compliance, eliminating the need for time-consuming and often error-prone classification done by hand. AECOM’s patented water treatment solution, De-Fluoro, destroys a globally pervasive emerging contaminant Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFAS), and optimizes infrastructure upgrades.
Thornton Tomasetti launched Beacon, an embodied carbon measurement tool that allows structural engineers to understand and manage embodied carbon optimization. And CDM Smith recently collaborated with Autodesk to develop the Rapid Energy Modeling tool, an integrated desktop application that enables energy managers and planners to conduct energy analyses at facilities without deploying physical resources onsite. Syska Hennessy was of the same mindset when it established a process to perform remote commissioning, punch-lists, and onsite field work virtually.
Engineers are more frequently being called upon for solutions that reduce their customers’ risks. For example, Affiliated Engineers Inc.’s resilience planning and design service features a tool that addresses climate change for the owner’s project location, characterizes the risk of failure to engineering systems should the identified potential disaster scale hazardous event(s) occur, develops adaptation and mitigation strategies, and presents this information in rich graphic form to the owner and design team.
Other innovations are designed as platforms for collaboration and greater efficiency. KLH Engineers created a series of custom Revit add-ins geared toward eliminating repetitive, rules-based tasks and providing the engineers with information they need to make informed decisions early in a project. And PBS Engineers is using 3D cameras to document the existing conditions of spaces during the initial site surveys. This process allows the team to have an accurate representation of the MEP conditions for a more coordinated design set.
Engineering firms expand services
These innovations emerged at a time when engineering firms were adding to their practice menus, and the sector continued to consolidate. Last October, IPS–Integrated launched a new service called CarTon, a complete cell and gene therapy operational readiness solution. This bundled service offering focuses on getting compliant cell and gene therapy products to market. Bernhard’s Energy-as-a-Service solutions offer healthcare clients alternative financing and project delivery methods that are designed to reduce cost structure and increase operational margins.
Burns & McDonnell hired a dozen professionals to expand services in the life sciences industry, collectively adding more than 200 years of additional design and construction experience in the pharmaceutical, biotech, animal health, medical device, and gene therapy sectors. EAPC Architects is now offering Entitlement services that process land development cases for rezoning properties, obtaining special permits and conditional uses for a specific land use. HPE Data Center relaunched its consulting practice in the U.S., Thailand, and Indonesia. Davis, Bowen & Friedel introduced the addition of in-house unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone services. And DeSimone Consulting Engineers initiated a Risk Management Services practice.
For its industrializing colocation and hyperscale clientele, EYP Mission Critical rolled out a suite of formalized services focused on the adaptation of standardized designs for new paradigms, modular containerized implementation, tenant fit-out/retrofit, and optimization and operational efficiency in power, space, and cooling.
The coronavirus pushed several firms into new areas. Milhouse Engineering’s environmental experts developed a method for sanitization that combines a specially atomized fog and a three-stage HEPA air filtration system. NV5 Global offered a suite of COVID-19 support services. To support business continuity, its COVID-19 facility health and safety services provide site-specific deep cleaning protocols and training of cleaning staff to minimize risk of exposures. In California, the firm offered third-party building inspections and plan reviews in municipalities that closed their building departments during the outbreak. NV5’s MEP engineering and commissioning group supports remote field hospitals and facility renovations.
NV5 Global made nine strategic acquisitions in 2019 that added 1,100 employees, enhanced service offerings in the environmental, technology, infrastructure, and energy markets; and broadened its geographic coverage.
In 2019, IMEG Corp. acquired five firms and 10 new office locations. These acquisitions brought its employee count to 1,500 employees across nearly 50 locations. In 2019, Dewberry acquired California-based Drake Haglan and Associates, an 80-person firm serving private- and public-sector clients. P2S Inc. acquired Muni-Fed, an energy and civil engineering consulting firm, in Q4 2019. In August 2019, TLC Engineering acquired an FP/LS firm that doubled TLC’s revenue in this discipline. It also acquired a Chicago-based MEP firm that became its 15th location. And with the addition of design firms studio951 and EPOCH during the fourth quarter of 2019, Shive-Hattery expanded into two new markets: Lincoln, Neb., and South Bend, Ind.
Other firms saw operational opportunities in the virtual world: For instance, Ross & Baruzzini converted its entire IT infrastructure to Amazon Web Services cloud and virtual desktop services.
Last year, 31% of Desimone’s revenue came from green building and sustainability projects. And it was easy to forget, during a pandemic, that carbon neutrality remains a long-range goal for the built environment.
Morrison Hershfield, in collaboration with Humber College and project partners, completed a holistic deep energy retrofit of an aging Humber Building NX, making it the first existing building retrofit in Canada to achieve Zero Carbon Building-Design Certification from the Canada Green Building Council. In Spokane, Wash., McKinstry developed and designed Catalyst, a five-story, 159,000-sf cross-laminated timber (CLT) building whose goal is to be one of the largest zero-energy and one of the first zero-carbon buildings in North America.
University Buildings | Jun 9, 2023
Cornell’s new information science building will foster dynamic exchange of ideas and quiet, focused research
Construction recently began on Cornell University’s new 135,000-sf building for the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science (Cornell Bowers CIS). The structure will bring together the departments of Computer Science, Information Science, and Statistics and Data Science for the first time in one complex.
Museums | Jun 6, 2023
New wing of Natural History Museums of Los Angeles to be a destination and portal
NHM Commons, a new wing and community hub under construction at The Natural History Museums (NHM) of Los Angeles County, was designed to be both a destination and a portal into the building and to the surrounding grounds.
Codes and Standards | Jun 6, 2023
California’s new power grid modernization plan furthers ambitious climate goals
California’s new $7.3 billion grid modernization plan is a crucial step in furthering its ambitious climate goals. The board of governors for the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the state’s grid operator, recently approved a strategy to build thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines.
Mixed-Use | Jun 6, 2023
Public-private partnerships crucial to central business district revitalization
Central Business Districts are under pressure to keep themselves relevant as they face competition from new, vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods emerging across the world’s largest cities.
Multifamily Housing | Jun 6, 2023
Minnesota expected to adopt building code that would cut energy use by 80%
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is expected to soon sign a bill that would change the state’s commercial building code so that new structures would use 80% less energy when compared to a 2004 baseline standard. The legislation aims for full implementation of the new code by 2036.
Healthcare Facilities | Jun 5, 2023
Modernizing mental health care in emergency departments: Improving patient outcomes
In today’s mental health crisis, there is a widespread shortage of beds to handle certain populations. Patients may languish in the ED for hours or days before they can be linked to an appropriate inpatient program.
Student Housing | Jun 5, 2023
The power of student engagement: How on-campus student housing can increase enrollment
Studies have confirmed that students are more likely to graduate when they live on campus, particularly when the on-campus experience encourages student learning and engagement, writes Design Collaborative's Nathan Woods, AIA.
Engineers | Jun 5, 2023
How to properly assess structural wind damage
Properly assessing wind damage can identify vulnerabilities in a building's design or construction, which could lead to future damage or loss, writes Matt Wagner, SE, Principal and Managing Director with Walter P Moore.
Energy-Efficient Design | Jun 5, 2023
Implementing an ‘asset drawdown strategy’ for site decarbonization
Solidifying a decarbonization plan via an “asset drawdown strategy” that carefully considers both capital and operating costs represents a game-changing opportunity for existing properties to compete with new projects.
Cladding and Facade Systems | Jun 5, 2023
27 important questions about façade leakage
Walter P Moore’s Darek Brandt discusses the key questions building owners and property managers should be asking to determine the health of their building's façade.