Over the course of National Engineering Month (March), we asked a few members of our technical staff to consider the future of our work - the challenges, technologies, processes and opportunities that lie ahead for the engineering profession. Their responses touch on a wide variety of factors shaping the evolution of consulting engineering.
What are some of the external forces shaping how the work of consulting engineers is changing?
Decarbonization of buildings, particularly existing buildings, is a significant challenge facing consulting engineers in the AEC industry. Competing technologies, limited budgets and schedules, and the uniqueness of each building, are the key reasons why decarbonization is such a challenge. The increasing decarbonization demands of the public, regulators, and clients means that this focus will remain top of mind for the next decade.
Ben Russell, Engineer – Health Division
The continued advancement of existing green technologies, as well as innovative new ones, provide opportunity for novel solutions that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. As an example, anaesthetic gases (halogenated ethers) which are routinely exhausted from hospital operating rooms to the atmosphere (and persist in the environment for a very long time), can now be captured prior to emission and, through cryogenic process, be separated back to their liquid form and then sold as a generic drug.
Edward Hood, Engineering Director, Health Division
Post pandemic labour shortage
The current labour shortage is exerting a substantial amount of pressure on various industries, leading to challenges such as reduced staff retention, longer customer wait times, lower service quality, and higher costs. Consequently, there is a growing dependence on technology as a viable approach for mitigating the difficulties associated with these shortages. Such professionals will be required to remain current with the ever-evolving technological advancements, including critical infrastructure requirements and emerging technologies and will need to have a strategic mindset to align applications for technology with each organization's distinct business objectives.
Robyn Munro, ICAT Consultant – Angus Connect Division
ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) reporting is having a significant impact on consulting engineering today, as companies increasingly recognize the importance of sustainable practices and social responsibility in their business operations. First, companies are seeking out consulting firms to help them assess and improve their environmental impact from both an energy and occupant wellbeing perspective. Second, ESG reporting is increasing the complexity of consulting engineering work through the use of sensors, and new technology. Finally, ESG reporting is driving innovation using data analytics to optimize energy efficiency. The use of parametric modeling tools is quickly being adopted to expedite decision making at the onset of projects, which can lead to overall carbon savings through the life cycle of the built environment, old and new!
Dayne Perry, Project Manager – Commercial Division
The most exciting opportunity for consulting engineers today is the global transition to sustainable energy. This rapid shift has never happened before, and it will require engineers to innovate in many new different ways. This full economic transformation will challenge engineers to bring more than just pure engineering to the building systems and processes we design; it will require us to take into account more of the economic, business, social and human aspects of our designs, as well as the ways in which we solve engineering challenges.
Mike Hassaballa, Engineer - Energy Division
Consulting engineering is built on people. We know we will need a lot more people going forward, due to both industry growth and the retiring Baby Boomers. Given this, scaling the knowledge and experience of senior engineers, through the use of technology, quality control, and process and practice standardization, is a key challenge for consulting engineers going forward.
Ben Russell, Engineer, Health Division
Looking ahead, the emphasis on data analytics and automation will become more prevalent. Engineering teams will need more and diverse data mining capabilities. Tools will need to be refined to effectively use AI allowing staff to focus on complex detailing. This ensures our buildings will be not only sustainable, but also accessible and resilient.
Dayne Perry, Project Manager – Commercial Division
In 5 to 10 years, I see many more industries and buildings shifting rapidly to more sustainable energy sources. It will be more difficult for some than others; however, I have confidence that engineering ingenuity and technological innovation will significantly help those who struggle to be successful.” If you missed any of our staff comments on the challenges, technologies, processes and opportunities that lie ahead in consulting engineering, click on the link below to read more.
Mike Hassaballa, Engineer – Energy Division
Look for HH Angus’ Podcast series – ‘Expanding the Possible’ on our website or wherever you get your podcasts
Skills for the Next Generation of Consulting Engineers
Akira Jones, Director of Digital Services, and Teresa Valentino-Wills, Human Resources Director from HH Angus join us to discuss the skills and qualities the next generation of designers and engineers will need to thrive in a rapidly evolving and increasingly technical industry. Akira and Teresa also talk about what HH Angus looks for with respect to hard and soft skills, important personal attributes, and what “fit” means. Definitely a “must listen” podcast whether you are currently in school, a new graduate or already working in the industry.
The Future of Consulting Engineering
The pace and the degree of change taking place in the engineering profession today is nothing short of staggering, compared to how it was evolving even just a decade ago. Join Akira Jones as he discusses where consulting engineering is heading. Akira is the Director of Digital Services and a Principal at HH Angus, co-chairs its Smart Buildings Committee and is a LEED-certified mechanical engineer by training.