Top trends and topics we’ll be covering in PM in 2011.

The changing of the calendar from one year to the next always brings with it articles in the media listing the top news stories, movies, books, fashion trends and countless other  categories from the previous 12 months. Then there are the articles that predict what will happen in the coming year.

Where would we be without Top 10 lists?

I enjoy reading these articles, even though I frequently don’t agree with every item on a particular list. Of course, having written many of these articles over my career, I understand part of the reason for doing them is to spark a debate over what’s on the list.

Here’s my list of the top trends and topics we’ll be covering in PM in 2011:

1. The economy/construction market: We could begin and end the list right here because so much depends where the economy will go. Based on conversations with contractors and manufacturers, I predict conditions will improve this year, although at a slower pace than any of us likes.

2. Green buildings: Building owners will be more interested in green based on how it will save them money rather than how it will save the world. The federal government will spend more to modernize its facilities.

3. Technology/BIM: The use of building information modeling and other construction software will increase as demand grows during the year for high-performance green buildings. BIM capability will become a competitive advantage for contractors.

Blue will become the new green as awareness of the global crisis in fresh water supply will continue to grow, green building advocate Jerry Yudelson says. He’s right.

5. Residential fire sprinklers: Momentum will continue to grow, spurred on by the 2009 International Residential Code’s mandate for sprinklers in single-family homes. More builders will jump on the bandwagon as advocates and more plumbing contractors will as installers.

6. Low-lead plumbing: More manufacturers will convert their products to comply with federal low-lead legislation that was signed last month. The new law lowers the national standard for lead in faucets, pipe and pipe fittings from 0.8 percent to 0.25 percent with a deadline of Jan. 4, 2014.

7. Single-head showerheads: The U.S. Department of Energy grabbed headlines last year when it threatened to restrict low-flow water limits to a single showerhead in most showers. DOE still is grappling with its final ruling, which likely will be softer than its initial stance.

8. Social media: Facebook surpassed Google last year as the world’s most-visited Web site. You should be monitoring what your customers say about your company on social media sites, or hire someone to do it for you. Get a copy of “Social Media for the Service Contractor” by Matt Michel (www.serviceroundtable.com) and read it.

9. Health care: Despite political posturing, health-care legislation that covers 30 million uninsured Americans will not be repealed in 2011. The new health-care rules will cause headaches for many employers. On the plus side for contractors, hospitals and health-care providers are expanding their facilities to meet the uptick in demand for services.

10. Training for employees and management: Incoming MCAA President Mark Rogers tells us, “Really good companies invest in their people further during slow times ... Other companies pull back.” Taking advantage of  training and education offered by trade associations, best practices groups and manufacturers this year will be time and money well spent.