Knowledge Management in the Engineering Profession

 40 years coming; IT, Security Systems and now “Commissioning” have entered into the large building construction equation for the engineering profession. The “MEP” (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) model for professional engineering firms in the built environment has witnessed a technological revolution. Between the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and the ICC (International Code Council), who in the U.S. and much of the world are the sources for building codes, a new and very high bar has been set for anyone looking to construct a new building. Our building codes have an untenable three year revision cycle, driven by tragic fires, other disasters, and the exponentially increasing technological imperatives. Untenable do to the inability for the federal, state, and local governments, as well as architects, engineers, inspectors, trades, and tenants to keep up with all the changes. At some point we may need to ask the NFPA and ICC to slow it down, or change the model; a subject for another interesting post!


To deal with this new knowledge management challenge, the NFPA has come out with yet another code initiative: NFPA 3 – Commissioning and the job of “commissioner” (basically, the code expert). While NFPA 3 is specifically fire systems initiative now, I believe it will be applied to all engineered systems. Soon owners of new construction projects may be hiring a commissioner before hiring their architect.


When it comes to MEP engineering, IT and Security Systems are the new dimension to the profession, and none-too-soon. Historically corporate, government, industrial, and institutional clients had been relying heavily on their IT and security system vendors for the design of their systems. They introduced these much needed systems well past all the other “base bid” construction trades had been awarded their contracts, too far downstream in the process. Security systems and IT were “afterthoughts” – not in the initial plans, resulting in; conflicts with other building systems, project delays, and expensive “extras”. Other problems with this old model are; 1) plans that were vendor centric instead of true client needs centric, 2) a lack of a business continuity program imperative (not conceived in the “big picture” of comprehensive risk mitigation), and 3) all too often using vendor exclusive products leaving the client no future recourse for service and maintenance, with little or no value-engineering.


A new day has dawned; finally MEP engineering firms are taking the bull by the horns and providing professional Security System and IT plans and specifications in total harmony with all the other engineered systems that go into the construction of a new building. Knowledge management will be one of the main keys, and business continuity will be the driving force. Knowledge Management is: the science and art of capturing, developing, sharing and effectively using processed information. It refers to achieving organizational (and in our case engineering) objectives by making the best use of knowledge. The great news is; from knowledge comes better outcomes and a wisdom we can all use.


I would love to hear your thoughts, and start a conversation.


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