Large construction projects, historic building renovations, and new mixed-use development garner a lot of attention. The visual appeal of both the exterior design and interior design of these massive projects are marveled at by tenants, stakeholders, and the community alike. Downtown revitalization projects, like the Pike Block, breathe life back into buildings. Once open, they attract droves of people curious to look at the latest trendy layouts and designs.

With so much attention on the façade and the outside walls of a building, what often does not get as much kudos or praise is what’s inside the walls, what you can’t see. So goes the life of a design-build engineer. However, for this blog post we will highlight all of the captivating trends and expertise of engineering. This post will feature the top 6 engineering trends in building in 2017.

Engineers have the unique ability to analyze, measure, adapt, and focus resources during the integrated design-build process. Engineering teams call for multiple skill sets and unending learning. Here are some of the industry trends our engineers at IPD Engineering are keeping their eye on.

Trend 1: IoT will be used for modeling and on-site work.

With the introduction to “smart” technology, buildings themselves now have the ability to become “smart.” Smart buildings are embedded with software, electronics, and sensors that provide big data to users. Types of information gained can range from energy efficiencies to building performance, which in turn leads to money saved and disasters averted. Combining big data with buildings allows users to adapt to climate changes seamlessly and identify possible building issues before they are realized.

With the creation of smart buildings, smart cities are not far behind which would increase energy efficiencies and building performance for all. By combining building information modeling (BIM) with smart buildings, a door to building framework insight opens. Some ways you may see the effects of BIM and IoT working together are through flexible, more sustainable builds.

Trend 2: Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will increase our ability to detect on-site problems and unexpected expenses.

With integrated design-build being one of the most hands-on industries, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are becoming critical tools to help expedite processes and pinpoint errors. By using virtual reality, designers are able to see a space and make changes in real-time. Augmented reality allows construction teams to seamlessly incorporate a building model onto the physical site. Both of these tools hinge on one key business practice, good communication. Think of both VR and AR as tools for a new level of clear communication between all involved in a build.

Engineering firms create construction, and even fabrication, drawings off the 3D model so they can overlay the physical 3D geometry. In theory you could line up actual piping in buildings with the virtual overlay of pipe and never have to touch a measuring tape.

Need an example? Here’s how BIM and AR could be used together to pinpoint building errors.

Trend 3: Business intelligence and cloud-based systems will provide project information.

Because there are always many variables at-play on construction projects, managing the complexities can be a challenge. However, the use of business intelligence (BI), like analytics and big data, minimize the uncertainty that can emerge. Analytics and big data help collect, sort, and analyze large amounts of information, making it easier to manage many projects simultaneously.

Projecting opportunities and challenges for large projects also becomes easier when business intelligence is applied. When all that information is stored in the cloud, the appropriate people aligned with each project will have real-time access to information contained in reports, site plans, and other documents, allowing for smarter decisions related to the project and business as a whole.

Learnings from prior projects can be applied to current and future projects and so on. BI continually informs building projects so smarter, data-driven decisions can be made.

top engineering trends for building in 2017

Trend 4: 3D printing will bring digital designs to life.

The BIM aspect of construction is essentially a virtual product that provides a comprehensive look at a building project. Because it’s created digitally, it requires the viewer to make that leap when examining it. However, with the increased usage of 3D printing, models come to life with expanded perspectives. Being able to view a project in a tangible, 3D stage lets project managers and others get a more complete view of the project. As 3D printing becomes more mainstream, even more builders will adopt it to assist in providing a physical representation of the digital project model.

Trend 5: Sustainable, green building continues to build momentum.

Sustainable building continues to pick up momentum in 2017 with new products and innovative techniques shaping the industry. BIM comes into play here (once again) as the modeling can help with identification of opportunities and implementation of green building. Engineers and architects are now able to design buildings to optimize temperatures for livable spaces; much of that is due to sustainable modeling. With more tenants and building owners demanding energy efficient facilities, sustainable building will move more toward the norm than the exception as the year and decade extends.

Trend 6: Mobile accessibility is key for stakeholder communications.

No question that we are immersed in a mobile world. This includes planning meetings and job sites. Perhaps many of you are reading this right now on your mobile phone or tablet.

Digital solutions made more accessible with cloud computing and real-time online meetings provide engineers flexibility to be on-site and on the go with their clients and building owners. Engineers, architects, and construction pros at various locations can be brought together via mobile access to make decisions that will save time and money. This mobility also extends to other stakeholders, providing accessibility at any point in the project. Everyone wins with improved productivity and collaboration.

Top Engineering Trends for Building Summary

Those are the top 6 engineering trends for building in 2017. It might seem like engineering is a behind-the-scenes aspect of a major project, but it’s clearly a vital one with impact on many elements of the process. While architects get credit for the look and feel of a building, these successes cannot be achieved without strong engineering and site planning. New trends, products, and technology will continue to emerge as integrated design-build firms explore more efficient and innovative ways to deliver superior results for their clients. This is no different for engineering firms.

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