President's Message: April, 2017

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The past two months have gone by quickly as we prepared for and celebrated our very successful Pro-Fair in March. Our February meeting, Dynamic Facades, was presented by Felix Weber and Galen Burrell of Arup. By highlighting some of Arup’s more recent projects, such as the Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi, Felix and Galen showed the technical complexity of their façade designs. As Earl Carter (CADE Architectural Resources) noted: “Felix Weber and Galen Burrell were articulate, intelligent presenters and their innovative work with dynamic shading is inspiring to many of us in attendance, regardless of industry.” These projects are truly inspirational – both technically impressive and beautiful.

Next up was Pro-Fair, taking the technical challenge to an entirely different scale: “Smart Cities Need Smart Specifications”.

Speaker Paul Doherty is well-known among designers who’ve been working with BIM. As an individual who was instrumental in developing and popularizing truly intelligent modelling, Paul travels and collaborates widely. He has tremendous credibility, coupled with a healthy dose of humor and practicality. Rather than demonstrate the rapidly-expanding capabilities of a technology that has become the new standard in the construction industry, Paul focused on the future – and on the power of intelligent technologies to transform transportation, cities, and energy generation. We learned about floor finishes that can produce electricity from our footfalls; autonomous vehicles that may eliminate the need for private vehicles; initiatives worldwide that we should be watching closely for clues to the future.

It was really a stimulating evening. Our only frustration was that Paul escaped and headed off to Washington D.C. before we could launch our usual barrage of questions. He left the room buzzing. Because I was fortunate to be sitting next to Paul at dinner, I bluntly asked him what he thought about the energy policies of our new President. Did he think we would slip back 20 years to a carbon-based energy portfolio, and turn our backs on the progress we’ve made toward hyper-efficiency and renewables? His answer surprised me. Perhaps with reduced regulation, the private sector really will have a greater incentive for innovation and investment. I certainly hope that’s a good prediction.

In our diverse group, I’m curious to know whether new trends are emerging. Will our customers and clients still want to embrace sustainable initiatives because they’re the right legacy for us to leave? Will those sustainable efforts turn out to be good for business and help us build a more resilient future? It’s easy to be dismayed by the rollback of many policies that took years to enact. Has the business case been made that innovation in sustainable technologies makes sense? We can hope that our collective know-how and our desire for continual improvement will make us more competitive; and help us hold on to the technological capabilities, courage, and initiative that have made America a unique and hopeful place. I think having these conversations will be an increasingly important part of our professional lives. I’m grateful to be part of an organization that fosters the sharing of information and opinion.

Many thanks to Paul Doherty for his presentation, and to Edwin Essary and his team of committed Pro-fair organizers for an excellent evening in fine company!

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