Goodbye 2021, and hello 2022.
I trust you safely welcomed in the New Year with friends and families, and, unlike myself, hope your New Year’s resolutions are still intact.
For those of us working in the built environment, 2022 arrives with a great deal of uncertainty. Engineering firms will continue to migrate data to the cloud while harboring technological advances with a goal of providing customers with efficiency, resiliency, and sustainability on top of filling unprecedented staffing openings in addition to navigating a global pandemic, ever-evolving regulations, and numerous other day-to-day challenges. As shown in this run-on sentence, engineers have a lot on their plates.
Now that 2022 has officially arrived, I’ve taken the liberty of making a few observations and assumptions for the year to come.
The Future Is Clean
The HVACR industry will continue to embrace clean energy. This will occur through decarbonization; electrification; the adaptation of low-GWP refrigerants; and the introduction of local, state, and national efficiency regulations.
In November 2021, the U.S. government took the global lead through its Net-Zero World Initiative — a partnership between countries working to implement their climate ambition pledges and accelerate transitions to net-zero, resilient, and inclusive energy systems. Through this initiative, countries committed to raising their climate ambitions will work across U.S. government and DOE’s national laboratories to create and implement highly tailored, actionable technology road maps and investment strategies that put net zero within reach.
Domestically, 24 states and the District of Columbia have established economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions targets. These goals will certainly include a mixture of renewable energies, which are poised for a banner year. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, as much as 44 gigawatts of utility-scale solar and 27 gigawatts of wind are expected to come online this year. For solar, this forecast is nearly double 2021′s estimated 23 gigawatts of new capacity. For wind, 2022′s projected additions easily surpass the current annual record of 16 gigawatts, set in 2020. This growth is largely spurred by the expansion of state-issued renewable requirements and government tax credits.
Several HVACR manufacturers are not only talking the talk, they’re walking the walk through pledges to reduce their own footprints. Johnson Controls has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040; Trane Technologies has committed to meeting a 2050 net-zero target; LG has pledged to transition to 100% renewable energy By 2050, and Danfoss has pledged to become CO2 neutral in all of the company’s global operations at the latest by 2030 — and these are just a few.
Numerous engineering firms have also jumped on board with their own climate commitments. McKinstry has pledged to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions by 2040, WSP USA launched new climate, resilience, and sustainability business, and Jacobs has committed to 100% renewable energy and net-zero carbon operation in 2020 and to become carbon negative by 2030.
What approaches, technologies and climate endeavors is your firm embracing to further this trend?
Fresh Air is in High Demand
Due to the pandemic, clean, healthy indoor air is no longer a want; it’s a need. Engineers will continue to play a vital role in terms of guiding all industry sectors in maintaining healthy indoor environments today and post-pandemic.
Right-sizing HVAC systems to provide adequate ventilation will ultimately create cleaner and more comfortable environments. These changes will be triggered through regulations and equipment innovations, which will ultimately create new opportunities for engineers.
ASHRAE’s new headquarters in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, provide a dose of anecdotal proof. The facility boasts an overhead fresh-air distribution system complete with displacement air distribution in the learning center and demand control ventilation (DCV) that will serve the high-occupancy spaces in the meeting and learning center. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASHRAE had already planned to provide 30% more outside air to the building than the required minimum ventilation rates from ASHRAE Standard 62.1, “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality.” The society intends to implement other applicable guidance that has been developed by the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force (ETF) for commercial office buildings as well.
In lieu of the pandemic, it’s fairly evident America’s current standards for acceptable IAQ are not sufficient. IAQ in today’s society must be resilient and capable of responding to future challenges, whether that’s natural disasters, indoor particulates, or (gulp) another pandemic.
Moving forward, your firm’s narrative should shift from, “Is your building ready” to “Is your building right?” Sage engineers can always find areas for improvement.
Longer Waits, Higher Costs
Ongoing tariffs on steel and aluminum and microchip shortages will continue to impact HVACR manufacturers, leading to continued shipping delays and increased shipping costs.
Delays from transit, port congestion, container shortages, trucking, component shortages, etc., will continue to challenge the strength of the supply chain and test the fiber of your customer relationships.
In the short term, those working in the built environment must be upfront with customers and openly communicate why delays and rising costs are occurring. Trust remains a crucial element in professional relationships — don’t take that for granted.
In the long term, the element of risk may factor into manufacturer and distributors’ business models, which may lead to fewer global suppliers, slightly larger inventories, and greater sales and inventory transparency.
Mechanical engineering firms, much like many other HVACR-related businesses, are suffering from a lack of qualified workers. These labor shortages are creating large gaps in the level of talent entering the industry.
Data from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) shows that while the industry has rebounded from project postponements due to COVID, firms are still identifying a tight labor market and lack of qualified workers as continued barriers to growth across public and private markets.
Per ACEC’s second-annual Engineering and Design Services Industry Assessment (EDSIA), 97% of respondents agreed that the industry labor market was tight, 87% of respondents had at least one open position at their firm, 64% of respondents believe their firms will see an increased backlog of projects over the next year, and 74% of respondents predict there will be an increase in hiring over the next year at their firm.
Clearwater, Florida-based Pure Air Control Services Inc. is a great example of a company in need of skilled workers. The company recently commenced a “100 in 30 days” hiring campaign designed to recruit and train as many as 100 technicians in HVAC testing, cleaning, and restoration in 30 days.
Skilled engineers will continue to be highly sought after in 2022. If you’re thinking of advancing your career, now may be as good a time as any to shop your skills around.
I only have one proclamation to make today: Your firm or business will experience a great deal of success this year. Why? Because you’re taking the time to improve your knowledge and industry awareness by reading trade journals, such as Engineered Systems. For that reason alone, you’re already ahead of your peers who are likely spending their spare time oogling at Instagram influencers.
I hope 2022 is your best year yet. If there is any way Engineered Systems can help you achieve your goals, don’t hesitate to reach out.