Canadian Consulting Engineer

COUNTDOWN 2000: ENGINEERING MILESTONES: three decades of excellence

The projects which were marked as leading-edge engineering in their day are important milestones for a young country like Canada.What better way to mark the end of a century which has seen Canada come...

December 1, 1999   By Bronwen Ledger

The projects which were marked as leading-edge engineering in their day are important milestones for a young country like Canada.

What better way to mark the end of a century which has seen Canada come into its own as a country with major engineering accomplishments than to take a trip back through three decades of our national consulting engineering awards? The first Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards were in 1968, and from the beginning they were sponsored jointly by this magazine and the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada.

Alas, we have space only to list the top awards, which means awards of excellence up to 1980, and Schreyer award thereafter. The entire list of winners — Schreyers, awards of excellence and awards of merit — plus details of the projects were published every year in this magazine, usually in the August or October issues.

Since they are given mainly on the basis of technological innovation, these awards should represent the waterline in engineering advances. However, time may have proved differently and some of the technology may have ended up as a dead-end. Perhaps no-one exploited its potential fully or it may have been quickly supplanted by better science or methods.

Rather than showing us what was the most advanced engineering, then, this record of past awards is perhaps more important for showing what society thought was leading edge and worthy of recognition at different times. As the years pass our values change, so that many projects which were greatly admired in the 1960s when efficiency was the key motive would be anathema to judges of today who are much more preoccupied with preserving the natural environment.

This century has seen the dawn of an explosion in technology. If the pace continues — and we survive — in another thousand years human beings will be living in an unimaginable world. At that time some diligent history buff might well be poring over what appears on these pages, bemused by engineers’ early and stumbling steps in manipulating the physical world, as she or he tries to glean some sense of what life at this juncture was all about.


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