Canadian Consulting Engineer

A Global Concern

Kevin Hydes, P. Eng. is current chair of the World Green Building Council, past chair of the U. S. Green Building Council, and one of the founders of the Canada Green Building Council which launched i...

August 1, 2008   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Kevin Hydes, P. Eng. is current chair of the World Green Building Council, past chair of the U. S. Green Building Council, and one of the founders of the Canada Green Building Council which launched in 2002. He is a former president of Keen Engineering, and led it to become one of Canada’s leading firms in green building engineering during the late 1990s. After Keen was acquired by

Stantec, Hydes became Stantec’s Vice President of Sustainability. spoke to him at his home in Montreal.

Q. WAY BACK WHEN, DID YOU EVER ENVISAGE YOURSELF AS HEAD OF THE WORLD GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL, MAKING PRESENTATIONS TO OVER A THOUSAND PEOPLE?

Not in my wildest dreams. I grew up in Leeds, in the north of England. We had a coal fireplace, an outside toilet. We lived in a back-to-back terrace house.

It was post-industrial Britain, where nobody really cared much about the environment. We used to throw everything in the canal. I asked my Dad, ‘What happens when you put stuff in the canal?’ ‘Well, it goes to the river, son.’ ‘What happens when it goes to the river?’ ‘Well, it goes in the ocean.’ ‘What happens when it gets to the ocean?’ ‘Well the ocean’s infinite,’ Dad said. Because that’s what everybody thought.

Q. WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ENGINEER?

Leeds was an engineering city. It was well known for steam works. I could see myself going into engineering, but I thought it would be in manufacturing, things that moved, like steam engines. It sounds a long time ago.

I left school at 15 and initially took up a trade. I was an apprentice pipe fitter and plumber. So I started to learn the practical side of building systems. I got really interested in it and I ended up taking a building services engineering degree at Newcastle Polytechnic, graduating in 1981. I certainly didn’t start off with an academic track in mind. It just happened.

Q. AFTER YOU MOVED TO CANADA IN 1982 YOU SOON ENDED UP WORKING AT KEEN ENGINEERING, FIRST IN EDMONTON, AND THEN IN VANCOUVER. WERE YOU DOING GREEN DESIGN AT THAT STAGE?

No, far from it. In fact, I was probably designing the most energy intensive building systems ever built. Then in 1992 I began work on the C. K. Choi building at UBC and met the green visionaries of the day: Dr. Ray Cole, Bob Berkebile of Kansas City, and the architecture team of Matsuzaki Wright. The project became world-famous in the end, but it was the process that really changed how we did the work.

I think green design allowed our bright engineers to put a focus on what they’d already been doing in terms of innovation, and to push it further.

I became president of Keen in 1999. At the time Keen was just over 100 employees. We had six offices. Over the next five years we grew to 300. We added more offices across Canada and two offices in the U. S. Coincidentally with me taking over as president, this whole thing called LEED emerged at the same time.

Q. THEN KEEN BECAME PART OF STANTEC.

I think moving to Stantec was all about how we can have more influence. Stantec today has almost 10,000 people and 100 offices. We have 350 LEED accredited professionals. They’re in all disciplines –civil engineering, transportation, in landscaping. It’s not just a mechanical-electrical engineering firm.

Q. FOR YOU IT SEEMS ENVIRONMENTALISM IS A PASSION. IS IT ALMOST LIKE A RELIGION?

I don’t want to say that because I think religion can have two sides to it. But it’s not something you can turn on and off. To me if you believe in it, you must change your own personal lifecycle and lead by example. That’s just what you do.


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