Why We Volunteer
It’s no secret that the work of an engineer is demanding. We are responsible for translating dreams into realistic and functional projects. For keeping up on the latest trends in technology, materials, energy and security, while hitting deadlines and meeting client demands. For maintaining a positive attitude while anticipating worst-case scenarios and for creating safeguards to ensure they don’t occur.
Our work is certainly not a nine to five job, and we have a lot to try and fit into a 24-hour day. But while the work is important and understandably takes priority, it’s also crucial that we make time to stay engaged in the industry we belong to, and the engineers we partner with. Joining organizations, participating in mentorship programs or even grabbing coffee with colleagues can help foster ideas and spur creativity.
When I joined the board of the New York State Professional Engineering Society (NYSSPE), I knew it was a chance for me to meet other professionals in my discipline and gain insights from their experiences. I understood I’d be responsible for helping get other young engineers involved, and to potentially organize an event or attend a networking session.
What I didn’t realize was that I would also gain skill sets outside of my immediate specialty, including management, planning, public relations, advertising and finance. That I would regularly engage with both colleagues and competitors to learn what they were working on, what they were paying attention to and what I should keep an eye on to become an industry leader. I was pushed way outside of my comfort zone, and while it was sometimes tough (and perhaps a little awkward), it made me a more well-rounded professional.
Joining groups outside of our day-to-day project work allows us to expand our horizons and receive experience we may not have access to in our careers. It also gives us a network of individuals we can reach out to for insights or problem-solve. For example, I originally met Ted Fowler through NYSSPE when he was at a competitor firm – fast forward and years later, we’re still bouncing ideas off of each other, just now as colleagues.
It’s our duty as professionals to make sure we’re providing the next generation the tools and insights needed to continually better our work and the profession. There are plenty of options out there to choose from, but here are some I’ve been a part of if you need inspiration:
So get out there! Make your mark, and learn something new. You’ll thank yourself for years to come.
Check out our blog for more insights and updates during #Eweek2018
Adapt or Be Left Behind: Technology and the Future of Engineering
The building design and construction industry strongly affects the economy, the environment and society as a whole. It touches the daily lives of everyone, as the built environment heavily influences the quality of life. However, when compared to other industries, it has traditionally been slow at technological development and process change. While research and development boomed in all fields of science and technology after World War II, the information revolution age hasn’t alleviated the professional chores of an engineer. Sure, disciplinary technical chores are faster and more accurate, but there’s yet to be an integrated convergence of new technology to enhance our problem solving.
Unlike in the past, engineering professionals now require high performance organization, culture and incentive schemes for their staff to quickly react to the technology changes and integration skills they will face moving forward. Most of this new technology revolves around knowledge management. BIM systems are evolving from the drafting boards and CAD to information and design, construction and facility maintenance tools captured in the design model. The professional still remains responsible for the outcome, but the tools and input specialization are more fragmented. Contracts are evolving into three-way partnerships with incentivized agreements between the client, design professional and builder. Also, the quantity of construction specification divisions have increased to meet the demands of skilled professionals, vendors, contractors and commissioning agents.
As technology changes, design professionals must respond or become irrelevant in the eyes of clients and the public. We must continually challenge common practices, the way we work and the tools we work with. We must embrace change and remain innovative, while providing the best, most efficient and highest value to clients, employers and society.
It may seem daunting, but through diligence and keeping an open mind, we as engineers will succeed. I’ve experienced it firsthand. Take the Occidental Chemical Office Building as an example – this project drove HVAC and task-ambient lighting energy innovation soon after the 1970’s energy crisis through a controlled louvered building skin that reacted efficiently to the northeast climate. Later in the early 2000’s, Ave Maria University integrated a Florida new campus’s administration and teaching systems, building systems, and facilities maintenance systems on a common efficient, cost effective, reliable and robust data network. These were massive challenges for our teams at the time, but they put professional teams at their best and resulted in a win-win-win for us as the design professionals, the client and the industry.
Engineering will continue to be a cornerstone of the world’s economy as it drives our workplaces, buildings, infrastructure and travel means within the built environment. But action is imperative to move the industry’s value chain forward and for all players to succeed. Public projects and regulations should educate, spread and speed up the adoption of new technologies. The industry should enhance coordination and cooperation and agree upon common goals and standards agreeable to all stakeholders. Private companies need to assess the new technologies, materials and opportunities, and then adjust operations, processes and business models. Design professionals must work along with client and contractor partnerships to share work planning, trim costs and execute holistically as part of the transformation framework.
As knowledge is shared, the trick will be maintaining the proper balance and responsibilities for outcomes. Actions and innovations for mutual benefit will secure everyone’s future, in the engineering industry and for society in general.
Check our blog for more insights and updates during #Eweek2018
Business First Buffalo Talks Leading-Edge Office Design with CannonDesign
Medical Construction & Design: A Focus on Strategic Partnerships in Health
BUFF Take 2: A Celebration of Creative Cultures at The Martin Group
Creative energy inspires me. It always has, always will. So, moderating our second Buffalo Urban Futures Forum event at The Martin Group’s new workplace in December proved remarkably inspiring, as it brought together some of the leading creatives voices in the City of Buffalo. Panelists included:
- Tod Martin, President & Chief Creative Officer at The Martin Group
- Dana Marciniak, Director of PR and Brand Communications for New Era Cap
- Aaron Ott, Curator of Public Art for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Through our discussion, we explored three key themes: The importance of place, what it means to stay creatively relevant and finally where our city’s collective creative energy is headed. Each panelist shared their unique perspective on these topics.
- Dana spoke passionately about New Era’s long history in the city, from its early days on Genesee Street to its current global headquarters on Delaware. Ave. She highlighted how the company has evolved from a company that designs and creates hats, to a renowned global brand and cultural icon. Crossing everything from global business expansion to Spike Lee and Chance the Rapper, Dana revealed how New Era is positioned to lead our city’s creative charge moving forward.
- Sitting in his company’s new workplace, Tod talked about the importance of planting a flag on Buffalo’s Main Street and in the heart of its theater district. He highlighted how the space empowers employees and also how it increases the The Martin Group’s civic visibility. Beyond fueling his own company’s creative culture, The Martin Group must constantly innovate to help leading companies evolve and reposition their brand for greater success.
- As the first ever Curator of Public Art for the Albright-Knox, Aaron Ott talked about how public art can help channel a community’s identify and passion. He also addressed how public art helps bring museums into the community, opening their doors and connecting with neighborhoods, even talking about the success of Shantell Martin’s Dance Every Day piece.
The group also had the opportunity to share their vision of what’s next for Buffalo, with ideas ranging from improved education, attracting breakthrough companies to the city, renewed investment in public transit, and new engagement around Buffalo’s art and design culture.
The event inspired me and hopefully many of the 100+ attendees who joined us in The Martin Group’s new space downtown. I’ve included several photos from the event below. We’re already looking forward to our 2018 Buffalo Urban Futures Forum events.
Jason Sokolowski, AIA, Joins Buffalo Office as Senior Associate
Four CannonDesign Leaders Named to Business First Buffalo’s Who’s Building WNY List
Architecture + Education Program Celebrates End to Another Successful Year
Luke Visiting a Buffalo public school classroom as part of the Arch+Ed program.
CannonDesigners Luke Johnson and Cheri Weatherston have been hard at work this past year as the Buffalo Architecture Foundation’s Architecture + Education (Arch+Ed) Program Co-Chairs. Other CannonDesign volunteer architects this year were Nate Heckman and Harrison Walsh.
With more than 225 students and five Buffalo public schools involved in this unique program, everyone is looking forward to celebrating when all of the students’ work is displayed at the CEPA Gallery in downtown Buffalo on January 19.
The decade-old, award-winning Arch+Ed program was founded to increase awareness and involvement in the built and natural environment and to use architecture as a multidisciplinary form of active learning. Running biennially, the program uses architecture to teach students math, science, history, art, and technology aligned with the Common Core, while raising awareness and appreciation of the built environment. (www.buffaloarchitecture.org)
Local practicing professionals and architecture students are paired with Buffalo public school teachers for a fully comprehensive, 8-10 week collaboration where lesson plans are formed and carried out. The culmination of the student’s work is celebrated and displayed at the CEPA Gallery for everyone to enjoy.
A photo from the 2015 Arch+Ed Symposium where the architect/teacher teams met and developed lesson plans to implement in their classrooms over 8-10 weeks.
Over the past 10 years, the program has been involved with 25 schools, 115 architects, and 115 classes, and over 3,500 students.
Our co-Chairs and the Arch+Ed program have garnered extremely positive local coverage. A few of these interviews and articles can be found below.
WBFO 88.7: Architects lending their talents to teach city school students
“It’s a way in which we help build awareness of the built environment and also showcase architecture as a learning vehicle for a whole slew of disciplines”
Buffalo Rising: #LittleArchitects’ Gallery Opening: Buffalo Architecture Foundation’s Architecture+Education
“If kids thought about architecture the same way that they thought about cooking, then we would certainly have a brighter future ahead when it comes to inventive and forward-thinking building designs.”
Buffalo News: Buffalo Schools make push to build career and vocational programs
“Not only did that get some of her students more interested in learning science, some even started thinking about their futures.”
UBNow: Architects in the Making
“The award-winning program introduces BPS students to the discipline in a fun, hands-on way.”
Three Ways Cities Could Evolve in 2018
During the final months of 2017, I had the chance to attend the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) 2017 Fall meeting in Los Angeles and subsequently share four exciting takeaways from the event. With a bit of downtime during the holidays, I revisited those initial takeaways and my notes from the ULI conference. Numerous other conference sessions introduced urban design and real estate strategies that I expect to resonate in 2018, and I wanted to share them as we head into the New Year. Below are brief summaries of three emerging realities that will affect our cities in 2018:
A “Golden Hour” for Gentrification
One of the most inspired ideas shared during ULI’s 2017 Fall Show came from PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell who talked about the need to preserve ‘golden hours’ of gentrification globally. Through data and real-world examples, Angela explained a phenomenon her team is witnessing when longtime underserved communities begin to experience gentrification. For this brief moment of initial exposure, these underserved neighborhoods closely mirror our ideal vision for an equitable society, with true diversity of cultures and incomes.
Unfortunately, this period of equity is usually short-lived as the residents who lived through the previous “bad years” get pushed out in the “good years.” Angela talked about her team at PolicyLink is focused on preserving this transitionary moment by creating and implementing policies to create sustainable communities of opportunity. She explained that while these types of policies directly help disadvantaged people in a community, they benefit everyone. To prove her point, she highlighted how sidewalk curb cuts mandated by the American Disabilities Act to give access to wheelchairs, also benefit every parent pushing a stroller or traveler hauling a suitcase. Her conclusion – “equity is a superior growth model” and one that will hopefully be advanced in cities more aggressively in 2018.
The Future of Residential Might be Boarding Houses and Penthouses
One common theme at the ULI show that will be loudly hear in 2018 is the impact of millennials on real estate. A fascinating discussion on this topic emerged during a presentation from Podshare Founder Elvina Beck and Proper Hospitality President and CoFounder Brian De Lowe. The two shared looks at projects from divergent ends of the residential spectrum, but then highlighted how millennials’ preferences commonly impact them.
On the surface, the two projects discussed could not appear more different. Hollywood Proper Residence is an ultra-chic, super luxury residential project with a novel mix of condominiums and fully furnished rental apartments. It’s target consumers are Los Angeles upper-echelon entertainment figures in need of a short-term apartment. Podshare, a membership-based live/work community, takes advantage of archaic city zoning to create contemporary “boarding houses.” The $50 per night cost and location flexibility appeals to the other end of LA’s entertainment spectrum – the newly arrived, aspiring artist. While these properties obviously function at the opposite ends of the price-point spectrum, their developers take a surprisingly similar approach to their Millennial-based clientele. Both Hollywood Proper Residence and Podshare merge hospitality and housing to create highly-amenitized, extremely social, living communities that speaks to Millennials desire for “experiences.”
Beyond just presenting radical approaches to luring Millennial residents, the two projects might also represent a vision for the short-term future of our country’s increasingly expensive gateway cities and the ever-widening chasm between economic winners and losers. A cities of boarding houses and penthouses? Maybe it seems plausible when you take a look at LA rental prices and consider these emerging residential products.
Image of Podshare
Autonomous Vehicles and their Ethical Dilemmas
There seems to be widespread consensus that autonomous vehicles will radically transform our cities in the coming decade, but – to my knowledge – Professor Azim Shariff is one of the few people who has thought deeply about who these self-driving cars will choose to murder. It turns out that this is not only a tricky ethical parlor game, it’s relevant to real world engineering decisions being filed in Patents and entered into equations today.
To understand the nature of these decisions (while also helping the continued research on the topic), spend 5 minutes playing this super-creepy video game survey: Moral Machine. Who should die, one driver, two law-abiding business executives, or four jaywalking students? It turns out the answers to these questions vary widely across cultures. One’s inclination to purchase an autonomous vehicle in the futures also weighs heavily.
Image of Moral Machine
Moral Machine is creepy, but tackling these hard ethical questions head-on (excuse the pun) may very well be the solution to a safer, more comfortable future for everyone who uses our city street and sidewalks. If autonomous vehicles are coming, we need to invest in making them as safe and ethical as possible.
Cities change constantly, but given the numerous disruptive factors spanning technology, policy, climate and more that will impact 2018 – it could prove to be a year of dynamic change for our urban fabric.