The old joke goes, “Chicago has two seasons … winter and construction.” And this is good news for the environmental business. The continuing development of Chicagoland has brought new opportunities in environmental remediation, conservation and civil engineering projects. The following are the key areas of focus for the environmental industry.
1. Brownfields, or derelict lots possibly requiring environmental remediation. Developers are seeing the value of reclaiming low-cost real estate and thus, incentives are being offered by local government hoping to transform neighborhoods. Generally, opportunities are moving away from sampling and testing, and into actual remediation. Risk assessment remains a crucial aspect of the environmental business, as developers take steps to affirm public safety and limit liability.
2. Natural resource conservation, including Lake Michigan — one of our most important assets attracting businesses and residents alike. Public support and funding for preservation of the lake and shoreline are on the increase, and new environmental policies and regulations are giving rise to stricter pollution prevention.
3. “Green” building, techniques emphasizing less waste and more efficient building systems. The City of Chicago has completed its first fully-green building and this trend looks likely to continue. Given the rising price of fuel, alternative fuel and energy conservation are helping create another burgeoning field.
4. Civil engineering initiatives to serve our expanding population, especially more efficient wastewater management solutions. The City of Chicago is renovating its decades-old combined sewer system, while neighboring cities are implementing innovative new systems of their own. Continuing engineering efforts are needed to provide long-term design solutions for these systems.
While there are abundant growth opportunities in the environmental industry, flexibility is the key to taking advantage of them. Relatively new areas, such as “green” building, require the continual evaluation and expansion of our proficiencies. But with flexibility and expanded capabilities, we will help Chicagoland meet its environmental challenges.
Deborah M. Sawyer President
and CEO, Environmental Design International