...launch a pilot program for neighborhood developments. “This is all about building a sustainable neighborhood,” says Murillo of Psomas. “We have already applied to be involved in one of the 120 pilot projects with USGBC.”

However, not all green building is centered on LEED. “There’s an increased focus on the durability of building materials and on energy saving rather than simply accumulating LEED points,” says Bell of SGH. “Green building is one more large element on top of all the other issues relating to sustainability,” says Howard of CDM. He notes that CDM is working on a massive redevelopment plan for Harvard University that has a heavy emphasis on incorporating sustainable concepts. “They even have instructions to look into geothermal energy where it might be feasible,” he says.

In some market sectors, sustainability concepts are an economic necessity. “Data centers are energy hogs,” says Rick Einhorn, chief marketing officer for EYP Mission Critical Facilities. He says that up to 50% of the operating costs of data centers are energy costs. This has led to an increased prominence of MEP engineers in the design process as they work toward more energy-efficient solutions

While buildings tend to get a lot of sustainability attention, corporate spending on non-building projects also is being channeled in that direction. “Businesses tended in the past to focus on the environment because of a fear factor generated by government regulations,” says Regan of ERM. This often meant that clients overspent on compliance efforts, he notes. “But clients are becoming increasingly sophisticated and now are we are seeing more businesses wanting to get out in front to take the lead on environmental issues,” he says.

Corporate leadership may go a long way toward a new environmental awareness. “You have industry leaders taking the initiative to in the sustainability movement, like GE’s Ecomagination program,” Regan says. Leaders like GE may bring along companies in other industries, setting the stage for major investments in the environment, he adds.

Regan says that environmental change most likely will not come from governments, but from private industry. “There’s only so much that one country can do to change the environment. But there are thousands of corporations out there working across borders that are beginning to see the benefits of working for a better environment,” he says. “I believe smart businesses will be the answer to the Earth’s environmental problems.”

This is true for design firms that are attempting to practice what they preach. “We believe we may be the first engineering company in the U.S. to become carbon neutral,” says Brustlin of VHB. He says the firm aggressively has pursued an internal policy of being carbon neutral and has purchased credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange to match its existing carbon footprint. “We are now looking for ways to help our employees reduce their own personal carbon footprint,” Brustlin says.

Public-Private Ponderings

Many firms in the infrastructure markets are looking at the increased impatience of state and local governments. “The needs on a local level are pretty basic. Many of the roads and water systems desperately need upgrading,” says Hirschbrunner of HDR. He says that more states are not waiting for federal funding and are going ahead with projects funded by bond issues or user fees.

Some of this impatience is pushing support for public-private partnerships for toll road projects, among others. “The trouble with passing a federal transportation funding bill these past couple years has caused some of the more aggressive states to come up with new ways of paying for highway and bridge work,” says Graham of HNTB. It increasingly is involved in P3 programs. “We are working with Fluor and Transurban on the [Interstate 95/395] HOT Lanes Project to reduce congestion in northern Virginia,” says Graham. The firm also is considering an equity position with a developer in Missouri’s “Safe-and-Sound” plan to upgrade its bridges. “We simply want to keep our options open to make sure we can serve our clients,” says Graham.

Not all P3 programs are huge. “I don’t think the U.S. is quite ready for wholesale privatizing of infrastructure like you see on some of the big projects,” says Brustlin. Some private developers are beginning to find smaller-scale privatized infrastructure projects more economically viable. For example, VHB is designing the 11-mile Poiciana Parkway toll road in Osceola, Fla., to link the planned community of Poiciana near Orlando with US17/92. “It’s not easy to make projects like this happen, but they are happening,” Brustlin says.

P3 programs are providing states and localities with alternatives to traditional funding of infrastructure, but there are some clouds on the horizon. “The Texas legislature is in turmoil over their highway program,” one of the biggest P3 programs in the country, says Graham. “Not many agencies and legislatures are willing to cede control over one of their functions for 50 to 75 years. Plus, there usually are restrictions on building competing highways, which is cause for concern for governments,” he says.

Designers and the firms they work in are changing rapidly, led by strong domestic and global demand, personnel shortages, changing priorities and new technology. For some, the pace of this change continues to amaze. As one engineer says: “I started designing with a slide rule and pencil and paper. There has been more change in my generation of designers than in any before.”