Each month RTM explores the top news and headlines affecting the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) communities.
This June, engineering and architecture firms are seeing a rise in profit margins on net revenue, sustainability continues to be of high importance in design work and a new health care code takes a risk-based approach.
Lucid Energy, a Portland, Org., start-up company, has found a new source of renewable hydropower that does not interrupt stream flow or fish migration, and can run around the clock. The company has installed small hydroelectric generators inside of a pipe that carries drinking water to Portland. It takes the power of gravity from the existing water system, and water now flows through four turbines to generate enough electricity to supply 150 homes with power along the way. The new in-pipe hydro system now produces power for customers of Portland General Electric.
In recent years, median architecture and engineering firm profit margins on net revenue have been steadily rising, and this year they reached a six-year high at 14.3 percent, according to the PSMJ Resources’ 2015 A/E Financial Performance Benchmark Survey Report. After the downturn in the nation’s economy in 2009, profit margins significantly declined, but over the past three years, median profit margins on net revenue have been in an upswing.
The NFPA 99: Health Care Facilities Code establishes criteria for levels of systems or services in health care, based on the risk to visitors, staff and patients in facilities to minimize fire, explosion and electricity hazards. The 2015 edition is now available and is a refined version of the 2012 edition, which underwent a major rewrite and change in approach. Before 2012, the code was based on building occupancy classifications. The risk-based approach shifts responsibility to designers, and stresses coordination among owners, users, designers, and the authority having jurisdiction. Custom applications of design criteria to the project is the major appeal of risk-based codes as there is potential for cost savings and ongoing savings in operations.
Student researchers from Michigan Technological University have compiled the first comprehensive guidebook for communities that want to explore the feasibility of using mine water for geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings. There are millions of miles of mine tunnels that crisscross underground throughout the U.S., and the water in these tunnels could be a geothermal resource. Currently, there are less than 30 active mine water geothermal systems in the world, including one at the university’s Keweenaw Research Center. In April, the student team presented their work at the National Sustainable Design Expo and won the AIChE Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology P3 Award.