December 20, 2011
I recently spent the weekend hanging Christmas lights on the outside of my house, just like I do every year at this time, primarily because I enjoy lighting it for others to appreciate as they drive by our neighborhood. This year’s tradition was different than past years for me though, as this year I decided to replace all of my old faithful incandescent lights with the latest technology in lighting – LED light strings.
As an electrical designer, I appreciate the hidden values these replacements bring. Not only do they burn brighter and last far longer that the old incandescent strings that had adorned my house for many years, more importantly they substantially reduce the amount of energy consumed while lighted. It was when I pulled the new LED light strings out of their boxes and began hanging them, that I found myself reflecting on how things around me continue to change and advance for the better.
I remembered the early years when I first started in the engineering profession and it was common place to create drawings on vellum paper, sepia paper, or even mylar sheets. Creating drawings was a manual, time consuming process and required choosing the correct grade of graphite lead in order to obtain the correct line weight on the drawing. For the less talented draftsperson, devices such as lettering templates and Leroy lettering sets were employed to produce “perfect looking” drawings. With that type of manual production process employed, it was common for the engineering profession to have projects “on the board” for months and sometimes even years before they were completed and released to construction.
I remembered when CADD (computer aided drafting and design) became the future of the engineering profession. The CADD department at the engineering firm I worked for at that time was located in a “black hole,” a room purposely kept dark to keep the unwanted glare from the overhead lighting fixtures off of the screens of the CADD terminals and the eyes of the CADD operators.
Lastly I remembered the day the engineering department at that company got their first and only computer workstation. The entire engineering group had to share it, therefore everyone had to schedule their workload well in advance of any project deadlines.
Our engineering workplace today has advanced greatly from where it was when I first started in this profession. Today’s technologies allow us to “virtual construct” a complete working, interference free, three-dimensional, Building Informational Model (BIM) – long before the very first brick has been placed on a project. These models can be linked to the manufacturer’s product specification sheets, installation instructions, maintenance manuals, construction schedules, and even customer’s preventative maintenance schedules.
What used to take months and sometimes years to completely design and produce, can happen almost overnight to support the fast pace of the construction industry.
- Product technologies are changing as quickly as they are introduced.
- Energy efficient light sources, such as LED, are being introduced to more and more applications as products evolve and product costs decrease.
- Lighting controls now include more than just a simple ON/OFF wall switch to turn lights on and off, now they involve sensing occupancy and daylight conditions in an attempt to reduce power consumption.
- Wireless lighting controls are becoming more advanced and as a result, finding their way into more construction applications.
- Alternative power resources, such as wind and solar, are finding more and more applications.
Leading the engineering group at Faith Technologies provides me with the firsthand opportunity to experience the advancements that technology continues to make around us, to find opportunities to implement those advanced technologies, and to appreciate, even more, the impact that those advancements have made on the engineering profession overall.
As for my lighting project, I completed it and readied myself for that all important critical moment of truth – will they work and will the expense have been worth it? As I plugged them in and stood back to look, the answer was quickly obvious – absolutely amazing.
On behalf of the entire engineering group at Faith Technologies, I would like to wish a safe and Happy Holiday Season to all!