I just came off stage in Las Vegas from an opening keynote for a group of about 500 representatives for Trane / Ingersoll Rand, and their key contractor partners. My keynote was to focus on “7 Things They Should Do Right Now to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast.”
Certainly it can be tough in the construction industry right now, and particularly so for contractors. They’re witnessing a laundry list of challenges, including:
- Project deferment, postponement and cancellation
- Prevalence of below-cost bidding
- Financing is vanishing
- New demands for cost-cutting and project management
- A capital spending freeze at many organizations
- A looming funding crisis (e.g. university endowment collapse means less college and university construction in the future)
Of course, that’s what most people might see if they look at the sector. I look further than the 3 minutes, 3 months or 3 years — that’s what a futurist does. And I see a TREMENDOUS amount of momentum.
First off, there’s a lot of fiscal momentum, with the stimulus spending including some:
- $6.4 billion for water projects
- $50 billion for energy programs (efficiency & renewable energy)
- $11 billion on a “smart electrical grid”
- $4.5 billion on federal building energy efficiency
- $47 billion in state fiscal relief, with permission to use funds for school modernization/repair
All of this will have a direct impact on growth in the industry.
Beyond that though, the future looks tremedously bright for the HVAC industry because of what we might call HVAC 2.0. In a nutshell, the industry is going to play a huge role as we work to fix the big societal problems of energy and the environment.
And that is going to happen with the rapid emergence of highly intelligent building infrastructure; ten years out, most buildings will be smart buildings; the Internet and IP will be the backbone to a system that provides for intelligent energy management, monitoring and usage. Silicon Valley and HVAC are getting married, and the result is going to be remarkable.
The National Institute of Building Sciences comments on the impact of this trend, noting that “…an economic expansion based on emerging green markets would create an estimated 3 million jobs … and help establish communities with high-performance buildings that are both economically advantageous and environmentally conscious.”
The trend is driven by two things that have undeniable monentum: the need for energy savings, and the green building movement. Consider the health care sector. Green specs in health care / hospital building projects has gone from 13.3 percent in 2006, to 37.6 percent in 2007, to an even higher percentage in 2008. There’s a bit of pullback in 2009 as projects are deferred, but the increase will continue to come at us with a vengeance.
So as a contractor, how do you innovate? By keeping on top of fast pace trends in your industry in terms of methodology, ideas, technology, new design thinking — high velocity change!!!!
So what I suggested to them was that, for example, they could get out in front of tenant / building manager needs, with this line of thinking:
- when times get tough, quality, service and relationships rule
- success is found not by competing on price, but through partnership: ie. ‘we’ve got the latest strategies to help achieve cost savings’ (i.e. remote energy management)
- key attitude? “we’re on top of fast paced developments with building management, so you don’t need to!”
I do a tremendous amount of research when I go in to keynote a group. That’s why I’ve got such a solid, blue chip, global client list. Real innovation takes real thinking, with an alignment of existing and forthcoming trends to innovation opportunities.