When the calendar turns the page from one year to the next, reports listing the previous 12 months’ top news stories, movies, books, cars and other categories invariably fill the media. These frequently are followed by more reports predicting what will happen in the year ahead.

While I enjoy these articles, I don’t always agree with every item on a particular list. I understand, of course, part of the reason for creating these lists is to generate debate.

The following list highlights the top trends and topics that pme will follow in 2011: 

1. The economy/construction market: We could begin and end the list right here because so much depends on where the economy will go. I predict conditions will improve this year, although at a slower pace than any of us likes. Unfortunately, much of the nonresidential construction market will struggle until building owners’ confidence and credit improve.

2. Green buildings: Building owners will become more interested in sustainable construction based on how it will save them money rather than how it will save the world. Boosted by stimulus money, the federal government will spend more to modernize its existing facilities. 

3. Technology/BIM: The use of building information modeling and other construction software will increase as demand grows for high-performance green buildings. Your capability to use BIM effectively with your construction partners will give you a competitive advantage in 2011. 

4. Worldwide water crisis: Blue will become the new green as awareness of the global crisis in fresh water supply will continue to grow this year, says green building advocate Jerry Yudelson. Use pme, www.PMEngineer.com and your other resources to stay on top of new water-saving products.

5. Residential fire sprinklers: Momentum will continue to grow, spurred on by the 2009 International Residential Code’s mandate for sprinklers in one- and two-family homes. More builders will jump on the bandwagon to champion fire sprinklers, although many still will lobby against them on the state and local levels.

6. Low-lead plumbing: More manufacturers will convert their products to comply with federal low-lead legislation that President Obama signed last month. The new law lowers the national standard for lead in faucets, pipe and pipe fittings from 0.8% to 0.25% with a deadline of Jan. 4, 2014.

7. Single-head showerheads: The U.S. Department of Energy made headlines last year when it threatened to restrict low-flow water limits to a single showerhead in most showers. DOE still is formulating its final ruling, which likely will contain more exceptions than its initial proposal.

8. Social media: Facebook surpassed Google last year as the world’s most-visited Web site. While pme’s research shows most of you don’t use social media in your business activities, your clients likely are paying more attention to it.

9. Health care: Despite political posturing, health-care legislation that covers 30 million uninsured Americans will not be repealed in 2011. New health-care rules will give headaches to many employers. On the plus side for the construction industry, hospitals and health-care providers are expanding facilities to meet increased demand. 

10. Training: Investing in professional development for your employees and yourself can be a difficult choice in slow times. Taking advantage of training and education offered by trade associations and manufacturers this year will be time and money well spent.

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