Janice L. Tuchman / ENR
Rifkin envisions renewable energy future distributed via smart intergrids.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Construction Industry Round Table decided to probe the future. Members heard the vision of economist Jeremy Rifkin, who sees the construction industry as an active participant in creating the “third industrial revolution.”
Rifkin is president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and the author of 17 books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, workforce, society and the environment. He told the industry leaders’ group, which drew 65 of its 95 member CEOs and presidents to Grand Cayman on Oct. 28-30, that the pivotal economic changes in world history have come when new energy regimes converge with new communications regimes.
“Written communication and stored energy in the form of surplus grain ushered in the agricultural revolution. The coming together of coal-powered steam technology and the printing press gave birth to the first industrial revolution. And the first electrical forms of communication the telegraph, telephone, radio, television and calculators converged with oil and the internal combustion engine to produce the second industrial revolution,” Rifkin said.
Now we are on “the cusp of the third industrial revolution,” he added. The communications revolution is already here with “PCs, the Internet and wireless technologies connecting the central nervous systems of more than a billion people on Earth at the speed of light.” Rifkin believes the same principles can be used to reconfigure the world’s power grids so that people can produce renewable energy and share it just like they now produce and share information.
“Creation of a renewable energy regime, partially stored in the form of hydrogen and distributed via smart intergrids, opens the door to the Third Industrial revolution,” he said. “If not you, who will build this?” Rifkin asked the group.
Janice L. Tuchman / ENR
President Mark Casso, Chairman Scott Lynn, Vice Chair J.J. Suarez.
With these ideas as a backdrop, CIRT members continued their work on Vision 2020, an industry futures study developed collaboratively by CIRT and Denver-based management consultant FMI Corp. Before the event, members had completed a survey identifying major factors expected to shape the built environment and the construction industry of 2020. After discussion groups and debate, they selected four as most influential: workforce development, sustainability, adoption and application of technology and competition for infrastructure investment capital. In the workforce category, the group included changes in the availability of human resources and attracting, developing and retaining talent. Under sustainability, they included the adoption and application of energy technology, changes in the cost and availability of energy resources and depletion of both and water and energy resources.
Mark Casso, CIRT president, sees the changes in a continuum: capturing resources for infrastructure investment, managing resources for workforce and technology and transforming resources to create sustainable projects for clients.
Getting the Word OutCIRT Chairman Scott Lynn, president and CEO of Atkinson Construction, said the group’s board decided to set up a series of meetings with 2008 Presidential candidates to make sure that they are informed about the impact the industry has on the economy and “increase their level of awareness of construction industry issues.” CIRT Vice Chairman J.J. Suarez, chairman and CEO of CSA Group Inc., said the futures study “gives us a roadmap with a vision to present to those candidates.”