Environmental rules have been a cornerstone of government for decades. Protecting people from water, air, and ground pollution is a priority for local and state governments and, until recently, for the federal government as well. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic impact have caused a reexamination of many rules that, the administration believer, are holding back recovery. One of those is the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act).
NEPA was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970. It requires federal agencies to consider the environmental effects of proposed projects before they can be approved. It also gives the public and interest groups the ability to comment on those evaluations.
With most schools closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remodeling and construction plans in school districts around the country have been put on hold. With classes possibly beginning again in August or September, Boards of Education are reopening some of the contracts that had been postponed and issuing new contracts for work to be done as soon as possible.
In Eugene, Ore., Ameresco, Framingham, Mass., an energy efficiency and renewable energy company, has partnered with the Bethel School District on a comprehensive energy efficiency project. Financed with a 2.37% loan, this $3.6 million energy savings performance contract will improve lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) controls, plumbing, and irrigation systems in multiple facilities as part of the District’s effort to reduce its utility and operational spending.
While the world is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and some areas are literally locked down, essential work must go on. Nature isn’t waiting for the crisis to end, it will create its own crises this summer as it always does: thunderstorms, tornados, hurricanes, and other phenomenon. Across the country, workers are preparing for these normal summer events.
Con Edison crews are preparing to respond to any outages that occur as thunderstorms and powerful wind gusts hit the New York City area all while following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines during the health emergency. Personnel responding to the events have been instructed to practice social distancing with each other and members of the public in order to keep everyone safe from the coronavirus even as they battle natural events.
Often the value of a technology is overlooked due to the way it is presented. If it is pitched for one industry or segment of the market, other groups may pass it by even though it can be of significant value to them. Among the terms that can isolate a product is “engineering.” So ambiguous and yet so focused, engineering-labeled products can often be extremely flexible and beneficial across many disciplines.
In the mechanical engineering realm, Ansys, Canonsburg, Penn., is a well-known name. For more than 45 years, it has developed, marketed, and supported engineering simulation software used to predict how product designs will behave in real-world environments. Companies in the construction industry use virtual simulation to understand the impact of their design decisions, ranging from site selection to architectural details to materials to heating and cooling.
Digital twins are becoming a standard for architects and building engineers across the construction spectrum. Digital Twins are 3D virtual replicas of physical buildings and infrastructure connected to the data in and around them, and are widely used to optimize their design, construction, and performance over the entire lifecycle. Building information modeling, otherwise known as BIM, provides much of the data, connecting the design to the future building and its ongoing maintenance.
One popular digital twin software system, SmartWorldPro from Cityzenith, is now being updated with the Beta release of SmartWorldPro2, an operational management tool for architects, contractors, and asset managers around the world. Cityzenith sees the digital twin market, worth $3.8 billion worldwide in 2019, growing by 45.4% annually to $35 billion by 2025.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a worldwide issue and companies in various industries and nations are responding in different ways. Almost universal, however, is the understanding that bad things can happen and we all must prepare better than last time. One approach, worldwide, is to explore the benefits of new technology or expand on the technology already in place.
The construction industry has faced significant business and technology challenges for a long time and many have been exaggerated by the pandemic. These include equipment and skilled labor shortages, increasingly short project schedules, and rising costs of infrastructure delivery. IoT (Internet of Things) will allow construction sites to leverage realtime data feeds to tackle these issues head on.
While many companies are slowly reopening, others in the technology segment have been busy all along. Remote work isn’t possible when the job requires hitting a nail on the head but much easier when the end product is a software solution. And many software companies have run remote operations for years, so the current stage isn’t drastic. What is happening, and how it helps construction companies, makes for an interesting story.
As an example, McCormick Companies Group, a provider of software solutions for the construction industry, has acquired TriBuild Construction Management Software. TriBuild Construction Management Software is a SaaS (Software-as-a Service) solution designed for specialty trade contractors to manage their construction projects. It allows contractors to standardize important project operations like submittals, RFI’s (requests for information), and change orders in a cloud-based system.
Keeping workers safe, whether from injury or illness like COVID-19, will always be foremost in any company’s agenda. Applying technology will often aid management’s efforts in safety and using the artificial intelligence capabilities of some technology can improve the efforts. As the pandemic ebbs and flows, healthcare facilities are strained, new hospital projects are being expedited, and long-range planning for other infrastructure projects move forward to ensure the environmentally positive movement of needed resources.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, utilities and infrastructure operators are using technology to enhance emergency work, keeping communities safe while protecting workers from unnecessary virus exposure risk on priority field work. One approach is represented by products such as Urbint, a field risk management platform that predicts and prevents threats to critical infrastructure and the workers who maintain it.