This is not a political article, but it is discussing the impact of politics on our industry. With the Democratic control of the Congress and presidency, it appears that we, as a nation, will now be shifting to a focus on energy and sustainability.

While it remains to be seen how much of the infrastructure and sustainability aspects of Biden’s policies will be adopted, we should be prepared nonetheless. 

As design and consulting engineers, it’s important to understand the role you play in an economic strategy focused on “greenifying” (yes, I made that word up) our existing building portfolios. 

According to Biden’s policies, we should expect, at least at the federal level, a focus on net-zero buildings by 2050 and a 50% reduction of carbon footprint in buildings by 2035. This will be achieved through “creating incentives for deep retrofits that combine appliance electrification, efficiency, and on-site clean power generation.”

Now, as to what this means, we can assume this will look like a retrofit on lighting, control sequencing, VFD drives, use of microgrids, and more.  

Additionally, we see that Biden’s administration will “repair and accelerate the building code process and create a new funding mechanism for states and cities to adopt strict building codes and train builders and inspectors.”

This statement admittedly lacks substance, but it could have substantial ramifications for design engineers. I expect that we will see a renewed focus on ASHRAE 90.1 along with LEED certification once again becoming a popular focus point. I believe we will see incentives for building operators to reduce operational costs through both carbon credits and retrofits. Some companies with excess cash will choose to “purchase” clean energy to meet targeted standards while others will focus on retrofits.

This is where consulting engineers come into play. Once again, I will beat the drum of working with your clients to perform site audits and to identify potential efficiency issues. These issues can be turned into a working list of retrofit opportunities that you can then use to drive engineering efforts.

The biggest market play will be the federal and state level, where cash infusions, incentives, and federal mandates will drive enhanced commissioning, adoption of ASHRAE 36 or similar standards, and an increased mandate on energy efficiency in new designs. 

Additionally, there will be prime opportunities for engineers and contractors to focus on retrofits of existing buildings. As with any change, there will always be new opportunities, and we should have a good idea what those opportunities are by this summer.