Could the staff at your engineering firm design a building today using only the tools and technologies that were available in the 1980s?

Thirty years ago, most design sketches were drafted by hand using slide rules, T-squares, compasses, and log tables. Scientific calculators and word processors were reserved for the most sophisticated engineering firms. References to Ohm’s Law, Fourier Transforms, and Maxwell’s Equations could only be discovered in hardbound books. Communication was limited to landline telephones. No on-site phones, screens, or texting.



In the mid-1980s, everything changed. IBM and Apple revolutionized the industry, and the world, with their PC and Macintosh computers. The onset of CAD software essentially eliminated drafting tables. Firms today are designing three-times faster than ever before with 3D-CAD. Gone are the days of multiple prototypes for trial-and-error testing, as engineers can now run simulations at minimal cost.

By the late 1980s, facilities began embracing the capabilities of building automation. Central computers were replaced with distributed digital computers on individual devices. By 1995, the central controller began to communicate with the internet. Today, central control automation hardware has given way to cloud-based software operated from any web-linked computer.



Let’s revisit the question I posed at the beginning of this column: Could your firm design a building today only using the tools that were available in the 1980s? While it’s possible, the results would likely be inefficient and difficult to achieve. 

While we can’t firmly predict the technologies of tomorrow, firms operating in the year 2040 will likely struggle designing modern facilities only using today’s technologies. We know new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), digital twins, and more, are emerging in facilities nationwide. How many of these advances are on your radar?

Much like the engineering industry, we here at Engineered Systems continue to evolve as well. We would be doing our customers — our faithful readers — a disservice if we continued to rely only on the practices of the past. Thus, we have a big announcement to share. This issue of ES will be the last edition we offer in print. Starting in July, Engineered Systems will fully embrace a digital-only approach. 

We believe digital deployment is the safest, quickest, and cleanest way for us to share our information. Additionally, data shows our readers are receptive to digital information — many of you are reading this on your phones. 

Publishing is much like engineering — the challenge is not in a shortage of information/data but the ability to manage it intelligently. 

Thirty-two years since we printed our first issue, our vision remains the same — to deliver technology and insight for consulting, mechanical, and facility engineers. That mission will never change, regardless of how the information is delivered. 



May 20

The Impact on Renewable Energy on Power Management Systems

Presented by Julius Neudorfer, chief technology officer for North American Access Technologies Inc., and sponsored by Kohler.


May 27

Four Essentials to Designing a Complete VRF System

Presented by Kenley Kyle, VRF sales leader, and Charles Jelen, applications engineer, Trane


June 2

Envisioning and Implementing Geothermal Solutions for Decarbonizing District Energy



June 9

Successfully Managing the Risk of Legionellosis Using ASHRAE Standard 188



June 11

ASHRAE 90.1 Cx Requirement Changes and Comparison to the International Energy Efficiency Code



June 29-July 2

ASHRAE 2020 Virtual Conference