Trends to watch this fall

Here are four key trends to watch for this fall and throughout 2014.

09/20/2013


Commercial buildingsAutumn typically is the start of a lot of things, including a new school year, the next season of a favorite TV show, and, in some cases, the company’s fiscal year. For publications such as this one, it typically means looking forward to the next year, and determining what trends or topics are going to be important to cover.

Following trends isn’t easy—if we knew what “the next big thing” would be, we’d all be wealthy because we’d invest wisely in the stock market. And absolutely no one can stay on top of every aspect of everything; it’s not physically possible to read, research, and retain that much information.

We can, however, get a very good grasp on trends by talking to key people from various backgrounds. For example, when I start to gather information about topics to cover in the next year, I work with three different groups: engineers, manufacturers, and associations. Sprinkle in a little research from external experts, and you have a snapshot of what’s happening in the industry.

Here are four key trends you should watch for:

1. Energy codes will dictate more and more of what engineers do, how they design a building or system, and what types of products they specify. ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2014 is about to be released, and other recognized codes/standards like International Green Construction Code (IgCC), ASHRAE Standard 189.1, and the International Energy Conservation Code are driving building engineering. Architecture 2030, the U.S. Green Building Council, and other organizations are driving efforts of the building sector to become more energy efficient.

2. LEDs will continue to overtake the lighting market. While LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have been around since the 1960s, they’re just now coming into their own in the commercial market. When we conduct research among our audience, LEDs typically fall high on the list of technologies they need to know more about. Lighting controls go hand-in-hand with LEDs, primarily because energy codes (see above) require low lighting power density and because owners demand more control over their building’s systems.

3. Integration of building systems is no longer a luxury for owners, it’s a requirement. For example, integrating fans and smoke control systems may seem quite obvious to many senior engineers, but for engineers just coming out of college or those with little knowledge of fire/life safety systems, it’s not always as apparent. Integrating lighting and HVAC systems also is important; by using building energy modeling software, engineers can determine how to size HVAC systems to balance the heat given off by lighting systems, particularly energy-efficient lighting fixtures (back to energy efficiency again).

4. The market for hospitals and health care facilities will continue to change, growing at a slightly slower pace due to the still-lagging economy. The recent changes to the U.S. health care laws will change the structure by which hospitals charge patients, which will change the way health care facilities are designed and managed. According to a February 2013 report from “Health Facilities Management”: “Health care organizations are investing less in megaprojects involving traditional hospitals and more in upgrades or additions designed to help them thrive under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with its emphasis on accountability, affordability, and patient access. That means a greater focus on infrastructure and technology, hospital-physician integration, and outpatient facilities.”



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