Tom Hartman, PE, a long-time member of the HPAC Engineering advisory board, recently shared with me a sort of revelation he experienced earlier this year. It occurred while he was attending a summit held by the New Buildings Institute called "Getting to Fifty," a reference to the Energy Policy Act of 2005's incentive to cut energy use by 50 percent compared with ASHRAE standards.

About 60 engineers and architects attended the summit to determine how to develop a path to achieve the goals of the Energy Policy Act. Another of the primary objectives of the meeting was to find a way to make green technology and design more mainstream.

What he discovered by the meeting's end was that there are a lot of talented people in the engineering and design community who have excellent ideas or who possess expertise that can improve building performance. But when it comes to looking at the big picture and sharing a vision of what it takes to create a process so that buildings can operate at maximum efficiency, there is a void.

What is missing is leadership in the design, construction, and operation of buildings to ensure that technology and tools are applied effectively and responsibly. That's a problem because Hartman says there is an unprecedented change in attitude taking place regarding sustainable buildings. Polls show that as many as nine out of 10 persons believe energy performance in buildings needs to be dramatically improved, he says.

"Engineers are not natural leaders," Hartman told me. "They tend to be introverts who are best at solving problems. They are not big-picture people."

But Hartman is confident that engineers have the skills to be leaders; they're just not trained or encouraged to develop those skills. "The culture is not to step up and lead," he said.

So, what will it take for the engineering community to develop a shared vision for the future, to develop a sense of the "big picture"?

Hartman plans to discuss that issue and more in a keynote address titled "Leadership: Your Most Valuable Contribution to Sustainable Projects" at HPAC Engineering's fourth annual Engineering Green Buildings Conference and Expo at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas Sept. 17 and 18.

Become a leader. Register for the conference today. Go to www.egbregistration.com.