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Top A/E/C Trends: SEH Insights for 2024+

Top A/E/C Trends: SEH Insights for 2024+
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In our ever-evolving world, propelled by innovation and change, we find ourselves pondering what the future holds and the positive impact we can make.

Think about innovations that spark your curiosity or environmental concerns that keep you awake at night. Which ones are fleeting trends and which ones are here to stay? Whether you’re ready to embrace the changes headed our way or feel uneasy about their impact, it’s important to prepare for a future based on research, discussion, and practiced ingenuity.

Our SEH experts have their fingers on the pulse and are excited to share their thoughtful insights. Let’s consider the benefits of Virtual Reality (VR)/Visualizations and Building Information Modeling (BIM), examine the immediate impact of generative AI and workforce automation, put our best foot forward through collaborative partnerships, and discuss reducing our environmental impact through renewable energy, solid waste recycling, and building smart cities. These topics are all worth discussing.

And since the world changes quickly, there’s no time like the present to dig in. We invite you to watch video highlights from our experts, showcasing eight key trends impacting 2024 and beyond!

1_8TIP 1: Building a Better Tomorrow with Renewable Energy

First up, Brian Morgan, PE (MN, WI, MO, AL), a senior engineer and clean energy enthusiast, touches on the importance of renewable energy. Leveraging his experience working with manufacturing and commercial clients, he highlights the growing impact of solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal systems in achieving sustainability and enhancing community climate efforts. By implementing eco-friendly plans and renewable infrastructure, communities and industries demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship, help the local economy, and reduce their environmental footprint. Stressing this shift in perspective, he emphasizes, "Renewable energy isn’t just an option; it’s a mandate for a sustainable tomorrow."

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TIP 2: Creating a Sustainable Ripple Effect

Dan Hinzmann, PE (MN, WI), LEED AP®, and Natalie White discuss the growing awareness of and expectations around sustainable practices. As a design engineer working on a variety of civil, water, and transportation projects, Dan underscores the need to be truly cognizant of using our resources wisely and protecting what we have. He highlights the role of Green Building and LEED accreditation in embedding sustainable practices into projects, noting, "It isn’t the program itself but the principles behind the goal that are important." Drawing from her passion for the outdoors, Natalie, a biologist and wetland scientist, champions environmental sustainability by emphasizing green infrastructure practices both within SEH and across her project work. She stresses that today, sustainable practices are not just a goal, but a necessity – driven by regulatory requirements and public demand. Leading SEH's Sustainability Committee, Natalie advocates for initiating change through individual actions to generate a ripple effect throughout the industry.

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TIP 3: Rethinking Processes in Solid Waste Management

As a seasoned senior scientist with 30 years of expertise, Brian Kent, CHMM, discusses the advancements in zero-waste landfills, reinforcing the role of technology and sustainability initiatives. According to Brian, manufacturing and industrial facilities are increasingly focused on rethinking processes to minimize waste disposal and enhance product safety with minimal environmental impact. This shift, he notes, presents significant opportunities for innovation in creating safer products and even generating energy, ultimately reducing their waste footprint.

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TIP 4: Forward-Thinking Approach to Building Information Modeling

As a seasoned design technician and BIM specialist with a 20+ year background in civil and transportation engineering, Jennifer Schmitz explores the transformative power behind this dynamic technology. With a philosophy of "beginning with the end in mind," Jennifer shares how BIM revolutionizes project lifecycle management, from concept through construction. It's not just an innovation; it’s becoming an industry expectation, guiding teams in planning precisely what information should be integrated into the model. She points out the benefits of BIM in enhancing model coordination, detecting potential conflicts before construction, and facilitating collaborative decision-making.

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TIP 5: Embracing the Benefits of AI Today, for a Better Tomorrow

Emily Honerbrink, senior strategic marketing manager, acknowledges the longstanding presence of AI in the AEC industry, highlighting that while generative AI may not be new, broad access to it is. She emphasizes its growing significance, particularly in streamlining tasks and processes such as generating master report templates and verifying specifications, ultimately saving time and minimizing human error. But most importantly, Emily points out that embracing all present forms of AI prepares us for future advancements. “Getting to know AI today is going to set you up for success when we are looking at what the future of AI will be a year from now,” shares Emily. “It’s important to start that journey and get moving on it.”

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TIP 6: Leveraging Technology for Smart Cities

Next up, Erin Jordan, PE (IA, MN, NE, WI), uses her decade of traffic engineering study and design experience to discuss how smart cities leverage innovations like connected devices, AI, and data analytics to enhance community sustainability and cost-effectiveness. She notes that this includes real-time traffic signal adjustments for improved efficiency and safety. Another application is creating mobility hubs and leveraging integrated applications to make shared-mobility easier to navigate. Recognizing the integration of such technologies into daily life, smart cities are seen as vital for addressing challenges like climate change and congestion, fostering safer and more equitable communities. Erin emphasizes that “being able to navigate that in a smart way is going to be extremely important and valuable and almost necessary if we want to continue living our best lives in each of our communities.”

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TIP 7: Importance of Building Collaborative Partnerships

Matt Bolf, PE (MN, WI), a project manager with over two decades of civil engineering experience, explores the significance of collaborative partnerships. Examining avenues to expedite innovations into our work – through technology and sustainable designs – Matt stresses that the most effective approach lies in strategic partnerships. He shares an example of how SEH’s subsidiary RAM Companies embraces technology and explores ways to integrate it across various disciplines. He highlights that teaming can “help develop better methods,” delivering our work quicker and more cost-effectively.

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TIP 8: Impacts of VR/AR Technology

We are seeing continuous advancements with VR, providing a host of benefits for designers, clients, and ultimately the end-user. Drawing from 17+ years of experience designing for a wide range of clients, Chris Sigit-Sigharta, AIA, LEED AP® BD+C, GGP, sees VR as offering "a little magic at your fingertips." He notes the significant benefits of using VR in projects, allowing clients to experience and interact with the design early on. This early immersion helps in understanding the scale and feel of the space, which in turn, minimizes the need for change orders later in the design process, saving both time and money. VR also serves as a powerful tool for engaging the public and stakeholders, providing a preview of the project before its actual construction.

Bringing It All Together

While these trends are top of mind today, our industry continues to evolve as new advancements and ideas come to light. Stay informed about the latest updates by subscribing to our SEH’s monthly InSights email newsletter. And don't hesitate to reach out directly to any of the SEH expert contributors – we would love to talk about what YOU are seeing out there and how we can work together to make the most of these innovations.