Every year, pme’s sister magazine, Plumbing & Mechanical, surveys the largest contractors in our industry. Along with ranking these companies by the amount of revenue they generate, we gather comments from their executives on trends they’re observing or experiencing.

As engineers, you probably get some of this information firsthand from companies the likes of EMCOR, Southland Industries and J.F. Ahern Co. Still, you may gain further insight from this broader perspective.

Respondents to this year’s PM Pipe Trades Giants survey say more of their business in 2012 came from commercial and industrial projects than residential, and 56% of them generated more revenue in 2012 than in 2011. Surveyed in May and June, more than half of survey respondents anticipate an increase in work for the rest of 2013.

More contractors are using building information modeling technology. In fact, 78% of survey respondents use BIM.

Midlands Mechanical has put a “greater focus on BIM and virtual design construction,” President Bill Kilmer says. Midlands also uses global positioning technology for faster and more accurate layouts.

Limbach Facility Services “uses industry-leading BIM and offsite prefabrication, both of which have increased Limbach’s contracting opportunities,” says Angela Weiser, director of marketing and communication.

Advance Mechanical Systems integrates BIM into its prefabrication process, President David Weiner says. Modern Plumbing CEO Dave Brown says his company has increased its use of BIM as well as prefabrication.

More contractors are using mobile technology beyond smartphones to improve productivity.

“In 2012, we adopted tablet technology for both project management and field personnel,” says Tom Palange, director of marketing at J.C. Cannistraro. “Project managers and foremen now use iPads to assist them with communication, documentation and various other operations.”

Improving safety in the shop and on the jobsite remains an important consideration for mechanical contractors.

“In an increasingly aggressive market, we have strived to differentiate the company from the competition by emphasizing our ability to deliver a safety-oriented, superior end product with on-time completions, professionalism and high ethical standards,” one respondent notes.

Many respondents have sharpened their focus on training — technical as well as sales or customer-service training.

“We have a company-wide recommitment to excellence in every department of our company,” says Luciano Piccirilli, CEO of Piccirilli-Slavik & Vincent Plumbing & Heating. “We’ve invested in technology-oriented tools and programs, as well as invested time and money into educating the young up-and-coming technicians.”
More than half of respondents (55%) belong to a green construction organization, with the U.S. Green Building Council the most popular. And 82% of respondents have LEED-certified personnel on staff.

Almost two-thirds of respondents (62%) recommend Energy Star- or WaterSense-labeled products to their clients. Contractors install water-saving technology such as recycled water systems and touch-free faucets. With regard to energy-efficient technologies, geothermal heating and cooling systems are gaining popularity as solar thermal projects have waned.

We suspect you’re seeing these same trends among contractors. Staying on the same page will help you work together more effectively to take advantage of business opportunities moving forward.