Our May issue has a cover story on the net-zero energy Lady Byrd Johnson Middle School in Dallas and also includes our annual Fire Protection & Design special section. These two topics — schools and safety — hit close to home.

My wife is a middle school math teacher in Chicago. I worry about her all the time. Seemingly, once a week some terrible act happens at a school in our country. I understand that the odds of something happening at her school are low, but those fears creep into my brain every now and again.

Understand this: My wife teaches in one of the nicer facilities in the city, but it still has the inner-workings of a school straight out of the 1960s, complete with a fallout shelter leftover from the Cuban Missile Crisis. I’ve walked the halls of her school and am left wondering if everything is up to code.

I’m also left to wonder what more can be done to protect my wife, her colleagues and all the kindergarteners through 8th graders who occupy the hallways?

I heard all the stories about how Chicago government operates before I moved here in June 2010. It moves slowly and frequently it moves sideways.

Many people, businesses and governments need to be led to water. They have to be shown the benefits an engineer such as yourself can provide. Then they need to see it one more time. It’s a frustrating process.

It’s on par with my beloved wife making me count my daily calorie intake and staying on me about going to our gym five times per week. I know I need to lose these nagging 50 pounds, but I am perfectly content to sit on the couch and watch whatever minor tennis tournament is on this outlying ESPN channel I did not even know we received. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

The problem is, it is broken. My 50 pounds eventually will grow to 100 pounds. Just as eventually all the old plumbing, HVAC and fire-protection equipment installed in schools will have to be replaced. 

In time, you’ll get through to the right person and the final answer may be a firm “no.” At least you were out there and were aggressive.

They’ll remember you when the time is finally right.


Speaking up

As you’ll notice in this issue, my March column on climate change struck a chord with a section of pme readers who took the time to email me their thoughts.

As I stated in that space, I do not expect everyone to agree with my beliefs, especially on a polarizing topic such as climate change. But it’s been awhile since I had such a consistent platform to express my thoughts and beliefs. The last time I had a regular column was in 2008 when I covered local high school sports in a small Wisconsin town. During my stint in Monroe, Wis., I never saw the volume of responses to the degree that pme readers replied to this one column on climate change.

So please keep reading and sending me your thoughts. While they may not make me “flip-flop” my beliefs, I’ll definitely stop and think about them a little longer.