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BuilSpec About the IT Sea Change

Starting next month in Chicago (Nov. 4), an 11-city seminar series kicks off to bring consulting engineers up to speed about rapid changes that event organizers believe will significantly affect the way many firms and their employees do their jobs.

According to Paul Ehrlich, president of the Business International Group and program development director of the seminars—BuilSpec—there are two broad objectives his group hopes to achieve: 1) Simply get engineers up to speed on all the new and unusual technologies out there that building owners are contemplating; and 2) Hammer home the fact that the whole concept of facilities is changing. "Over the course of the past year I've interviewed more than a 100 owners, and I'm seeing this more and more," said Ehrlich.

Specifically, what's changed is that IT staffs and managers have risen to the top of the food chain and are now actively part of most business and facility decisions. "IT is now seen as critical by the top officials of companies, and their IT agents are very attuned to technology and how it can make a business more efficient," said Ehrlich.

To the point, Ehrlich said it boils down to a consultant's ability to understand and offer advice on integration and automation of not just building systems, but also the systems affecting an organization's enterprise.

"There are a handful of consultants that get this, but we believe there are many who don't and we hope to change that," he said.

The day-long session will include video interviews with owners and key players, case study presentations and a workshop that will allow participants to interact with facility staff along these lines.

Ehrlich firmly believes a more interactive approach with owners is essential. For example, he noted one engineer he interviewed who told him that in the old days, he spent 20% of his time with the owner and the other 80% doing the job. Now it's reversed. "We're really talking about becoming more like an IT consultant," said Ehrlich.

In the end, Ehrlich said engineers can focus on just being designers—and that's fine—but someone with more owner and integrator skills will improve his or her value to a firm, while more traditional design tasks may soon find themselves being outsourced. "So it's not a bad idea to get up to speed before you find your job automated."

For more on the sessions visit