The New Horizons Foundation, an HVAC and Sheet Metal initiative, with its original funding from the Sheet Metal And Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), is involved in its most comprehensive study to date. The purpose of this study, called “Identifying Alternative Futures,” is to attempt to get an idea of what the HVAC and metal industry will look like 10 years from now, in 2017. The foundation has engaged FMI to handle the research on the project. FMI, as most of you are probably aware, is one of the foremost consultants to the HVAC and construction industries. It has had experience in performing this type of study, and New Horizons is confident that the industry will obtain some very pertinent and worthwhile results.

Input is being obtained from all segments of our industry. Contractors, manufacturers, component suppliers, labor officials, government representatives, media personnel have all been invited and have agreed to participate. Naturally, input from all of these entities is necessary in order to ensure that we receive sufficient enough input to make some educated statements regarding the future of our industries.

The process is quite complex with all of the participating representatives being asked to respond to a list of some 150 questions covering a number of pertinent topics. These include social-cultural issues, technological, economic, political, competitive, and natural. Under each of these topics are a number of factors that must be considered with regard to their impact on our industry, as well as to the extent it is felt change will occur within each of the issues.


As I spent the time responding to the various questions being addressed, I found it extremely difficult to think about the status of many of these issues several years into the future. This made me realize how we, as contractors, for the most part focus on issues of immediate concern. We must address problems and concerns that deal with today and tomorrow. While we are putting out the fires of today, we don’t really have the time to worry about issues a year or so away, much less 10 years away.

The exercise of answering the questions has proven worthwhile to me because it has opened my eyes to the fact that we, as contractors, need to broaden our normal range of thinking. We can do a better job of solving today’s issues and problems if we include some thought as to what the issues may be a year or so ahead. I thought I had been attempting to do that as I made my day-to-day decisions. But as I reviewed the list of all of the factors that have an effect on our business, I realize I need to be thinking much more broadly. There really are a great number of factors that influence our business that we don’t normally consider on a day-to-day basis.

For example, we deal with government entities locally with regards to codes, licensing, and permits, but seldom do we give thought to the changes, incentives, etc. that the federal government enacts that can have even more impact on our business. How many of us really planned properly for the change to 13 SEER minimum air conditioning units?


The real message that this exercise has sent home to me, and I want to impart to you, is that if you are going to be successful five and 10 years in the future, then you need to be thinking further into the future when making your day-to-day decisions. I don’t think most of us contractors can possibly predict what our industry will resemble in 2017, although I hope that the FMI study will give us some valuable insights. But I do think we need to be thinking at least two to three years ahead if we are going to be able to face the rapid rate of change that is occurring in our industry. Are you preparing for and advising your customers about the refrigerant change coming in 2010?

Change is inevitable. The question is whether or not we will be prepared to succeed with it.

Publication Date:08/27/2007