Smarter solutions (Part 1)

Sep 24, 2018

Designing for the future will require intense research, following tech trends, and thinking beyond conventional boundaries.

When we moved into the 21st century just a short 18 years ago, surveyors were using the same techniques that our forefathers used to map and set boundaries in the newly found United States: mechanical instruments, reading vernier angles, measuring with a tape, and handwriting all results in a field book.

Today, surveys are performed with satellites, robotic instruments, drones, PCs, and sophisticated software. We have always designed for the future; designing extra capacity in areas like our sewer and transportation systems. However, with population growth, climate change, and limited renewable resources, we need to take this thinking one step further. By 2050, due to worldwide population growth, we will see an increased need for 55 percent more water, 40 percent more food, and 80 percent more energy. How will our industry change our design thought process to provide for these needs?

As an example, consider the energy sector. Technological advancements have allowed energy experts to extract trapped natural gas from geological formations. How has that affected our energy capabilities and capacity? We are designing ways to produce energy from things we are currently throwing away, including food waste and old tires, keeping these items from landfills.

We must continue to challenge each other to be innovative and environmentally conscious. As another example, consider the transportation sector. Will autonomous vehicles be designed to fit our current highway and intersection systems, or do we need to think ahead to change the way we design transportation systems to accommodate AV? Will AVs be single occupancy, or will we incentivize for multi-occupancy due to population growth and traffic congestion? I suggest it is the latter in both cases! How will that change your design thought process?

We can’t build our way out of traffic congestion by building more highways, and we can’t source the energy we need with depleting fossil fuel sources. To stay ahead of the curve, we must continue to educate ourselves and think about how climate change, population growth, and technology advancements fit into our design considerations.

I suggest having your firm learn about smarter solutions, projects designed to include the Envision or other sustainability processes, GIS mapping, data production, predictive analytics, and other creative ideas. Indulge in research. Harness and develop technology as we design for the future!

Joseph Viscuso is Pennoni’s senior vice president and director of strategic growth. He can be reached at

Subscribe to The Zweig Letter for free.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.