Canadian Consulting Engineer

Mergers and Acquisitions; Award Winners at Construct Canada

October 1, 2007
By Canadian Consulting Engineer



New bridge to replace Moncton causeway

The New Brunswick Ministry of Supply and Services has announced it intends to replace the Petitcodiac River Causeway in Moncton with a 280-metre long bridge. The causeway crosses the Petitcodiac River which flows into the Bay of Fundy.

A federal-provincial Environmental Impact Assessment report prepared under the leadership of AMEC of Fredericton (Greg Gillis, P.Eng.) was approved by the province last December. The selected option involves opening the causeway’s existing control gates before the new bridge is constructed. There will also be extensive environmental monitoring both before and after construction starts.

The new bridge is to be built immediately downstream of the causeway, and will carry four lanes of traffic. The eventual river opening will be up to 225 metres wide.

The causeway was built in 1968 to connect Moncton with Riverview. It became a sore point with environmentalists because it reduced the tidal bore and impeded fish passage. Michel Desjardins, president of the Petitcodiac Riverkeepers, says that the silting of the river has reached a “critical point.” In 2003, the river was ranked second as one of the most endangered rivers in the country.

The Riverkeepers generally support the plans for the new bridge, but homeowners on Lake Petitcodiac, a lake that was created by the causeway, are unhappy that they may lose their waterfront property values.

New Brunswick wants funding from the federal government to carry out the project, which is estimated to cost $68 million.


Burj Dubai tops CN Tower

Canada has lost the record for having the world’s tallest freestanding structure. On September 13, the developers of the Burj Dubai tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates announced that construction on their tower had reached 555-metres and was still climbing. At 553-metres, the CN Tower in downtown Toronto has held the record for 30 years since it was completed in 1976. The Burj Dubai has surpassed Taipei 101 as the tallest building as well.

The Dubai tower’s final height is still a secret. George Efstathiou, the managing partner at Skidmore Owings and Merrill in Chicago, who are the architects and engineers of the tower, promised in a release that it, “won’t be the tallest in the world by a few metres: it is going to be well above all the previous records.” Efstathiou also said, “Height numbers in feet and metres don’t mean much to most people, but when I tell them to imagine the John Hancock Building stacked on top of the Sears Tower I usually get a jaw-dropping response. It’s an approximation, but it gives an idea of the scale of the project.”

SOM say they have developed a new structural system for the tower, a “Buttressed Core,” that enables them to reach the heights economically.

In a building of 150-plus “liveable” floors, fire evacuation is obviously a concern. The building is to have elevators that run during an alarm situation.

The tower is being developed by Emaar Properties and constructed by Samsung Corporation of South Korea. It is due to be topped off in 2008.


Ritzing up the Ritz

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal is to have a complete refurbishment and an addition, costing $100 million.

The neo-classical building known as the “Grande Dame” of Sherbrooke Street was constructed in 1912, designed by the same architects who designed New York’s Grand Central Station. It was the 19th hotel in the world to bear the Ritz name, but the first to be a “Ritz-Carlton.”

From its ballroom the first transcontinental telephone call was placed in 1916, and guests have included Queen Elizabeth, Charles de Gaulle, The Rolling Stones, Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor.

The building’s original facade will be preserved, as well as spaces like the lobby, the palm court and the oval room. The new residential wing will be in glass and stainless steel. Construction will begin in the winter of 2008.

Provencher Roy & Associates are the architects. LBCD and Le Groupe E+ are electrical and mechanical engineers, and Schector Barbacki Shemie & Associates are the structural engineers. Decasult are project managers.


Boarding the Greyhound in Windsor

The Ontario border city Windsor has a new transit terminal in place of a 1940s structure. Located on Chatham Street downtown, the new Windsor International Transit Terminal is shared by Greyhound and Transit Windsor.

The 860 sq.m building has 12 bays for transit buses, four for Greyhound coaches, and seating for 800 waiting passengers. The curved metal roof sits on exposed structural roof trusses. Expansive glass walls in the concourse have 96% ultraviolet reflectance and the in-floor heating is serviced by Windsor’s district energy system.

Glos Associates provided all the design services, including civil, architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical.

The city partnered with Greyhound to build the project, in an arrangement that involved Greyhound transferring the deed of the old terminal property and taking a long term lease for space at the new terminal. The P3 arrangement won an award from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario in June. Federal and provincial government funding contributed $5.9 million to the project. The final cost was approximately $7.4 million — $100,000 under budget.


“The New Orleans Hurricane Protection System: What Went Wrong and Why.” Report by the American Society of Civil Engineers Hurricane Katrina External Review Panel. ASCE, 2007.

Review by Alan R. Perks, P.Eng.

I will always remember 29 August 2005, and the moment I heard that the levees had been breached in New Orleans. A civil engineer has a good idea of the odds and the stakes involved in a direct hit on the Mississippi delta — it had been discussed for years in the journals and news media. I knew the city was lost.

Now an independent review report by the American Society of Civil Engineers offers an independent assessment of what happened and why. It is not a comforting document.

Within an hour of Katrina’s landfall the Lake Pontchartrain levees failed. More than 50 breaches subsequently occurred. The waters rose to rooftop level at one foot every 10 minutes; faster in some areas. Those poor, unfortunate, unsuspecting souls! The largest mass migration since the U.S. Civil War had begun.

When it was over, the toll included 1,200 deaths, 124,000 jobs lost, $21 billion in damages, and the population of a major American city reduced from 1,034,000 to 581,000.

How could this have happened?

Flood walls simply collapsed, levees were overtopped and eroded, or just washed away due to seepage pressures. According to the ASCE report, the underlying soil strength may have been overestimated in design. Incredibly, incorrect datums were used over time, resulting in levees actually built several feet too low. Others had subsided several feet over the years and were never repaired.

Piecemeal construction left unfinished gaps in the flood walls open to the waters. Pumping stations were abandoned in advance of the storm and actually let flood waters backflow into the city through the idle pumps. Inexplicably, some flood gates where roads and railways traversed the levees were left open to the onrushing seas.

Many design and operational agencies had a role in the flood protection system, but no single agency was in charge.

The ASCE recommendations include better communication of the risks, rehabilitation of the levees, improved inter-agency coordination, and placing public safety at the highest priority.

But still, the images of people wading through turgid water, sitting on rooftops, the floating bodies, will always be with me. This was a failure of civil engineering, of government, and of societies that choose to ignore peril at the very door.

Alan R. Pe
rks, P.Eng. is a principal with R.V. Anderson Associates in Ottawa.


Montreal Agreement speeds phase-out of HCFCs

International delegates at a meeting for the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol announced September 14 that they had agreed to accelerate the phase-out of hydrochlorofluorcarbons (HCFCs). HCFC refrigerants are used in 90% of air-conditioning units and 50% of commercial refrigeration units in Canada.

HCFCs have been commonly used as a stopgap measure to replace CFCs after CFCs were phased out under the original Montreal Protocol of 1997 — an agreement that was coordinated by the United Nations Environmental Program.

Both CFCs and HCFCs damage the earth’s ozone layer and contribute to global warming, but HCFCs are less harmful.

The latest decision in Montreal was precipitated by mounting evidence that the use of HCFCs was increasing (partly, no doubt as more developing countries start to use air-conditioning). A statement from the Montreal signatories said: “Experts estimate that without this week’s agreement, production and consumption of HCFCs may have doubled by 2015 adding to the dual challenges of ozone depletion and climate change.”

In Canada and other developed countries, production of HCFCs will be reduced by 75% of the baseline established in 1996, versus 65% in the original phase out schedule. Equipment using HCFCs R-22 will no longer be produced or imported into Canada after January 2010 — a date that was already set before the latest Montreal agreement.

Developing countries will ban almost all HCFC production by 2030 — approximately 10 years earlier than agreed to previously.

Warren Heeley, President of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) says no-one can predict whether the accelerated phasing out of HCFCs will affect the servicing of HCFC equipment in Canada. He says most manufacturers are already offering alternative equipment that operates on non-ozone depleting refrigerants such as HFC 410a

However, since most commercial HVAC equipment has a life of 20-30 years, owners and consulting engineers need to keep the phase out date for HCFCs in mind.

The issue with HRAI, Heeley says, is to ensure that Canada’s program to recover and destroy surplus CFCs and HCFCs from old equipment does not suffer. When HCFCs are sold, a voluntary levy is paid to Refrigerant Management Canada to underwrite the costs of collecting and destroying the recovered refrigerants. With a shortened timeline for HCFCs, less money will be going into the recovery program. HRAI will be discussing ideas with the federal government on how to makeup this potential shortfall.

Achim Steiner, the UN Environment Program’s executive director praised the latest Montreal decision as a “historic” agreement. The agreement is also seen as a positive move in light of the UN climate convention negotiations to be held in Bali, Indonesia in December.


Landslides at Three Gorges Dam

Chinese officials expressed concerns about the environmental impacts of the world’s largest hydropower project in September.

A forum of officials and experts issued a statement through the Xinhua news agency that said: “There exist many ecological and environmental problems concerning the Three Gorges Dam. If no preventive measures are taken, the project could lead to catastrophe.” The statement was reported by the Washington Post, Times of London and CBC Radio.

The main problems are apparently with landslides and erosion along the shores of the reservoir. The vice-mayor of the city of Chongqing said that the shoreline had collapsed in 91 places.

The massive concrete dam, which is 185 metres high, was built to alleviate flooding downstream on the Yangtse River and to generate hydropower from 17 turbines. It has been hailed as an engineering masterpiece worthy of comparison with the Great Wall, but it was controversial from the beginning, partly because it required the displacement of over a million people.

Canadian engineering companies were involved in the 1988 Three Gorges Dam environmental feasibility study. Also, after the $25-billion project was approved in 1992, Canadian engineers helped design transmission lines and supplied turbines and project management systems.


Webcasting in B.C.

The article, “At Long Distance,” (CCE June-July 2007, page 40) stated that the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. (APEGBC) provided 23 web-based seminars in 2006. In fact, the association has provided 20 webcasts since 2004, and six during 2005.


Mergers and Acquisitions

* Klohn Crippen Berger based in Vancouver has acquired Mack, Slack & Associates, a civil engineering firm in Calgary. Mack, Slack specializes in hydraulic structures, irrigation and climate monitoring.

* Stantec has acquired Chong Partners Architecture, one of San Francisco’s largest design firms with 175 employees and offices in Sacramento and San Diego.

In September, Stantec moved into new offices in Toronto located in the former McGregor Socks Factory on Wellington Street downtown. The project was designed to LEED Gold standard.

* SNC-Lavalin of Montreal, has acquired Span Consultants of India. With 700 employees, Span’s headquarters are in New Delhi and it has offices in Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata.

* KMK Consulting is merging with UMA Engineering. The move follows the acquisition of KMK by UMA’s parent company, AECOM Technology Corporation. KMK is based in Ontario and specializes in water, wastewater and municipal engineering. It has offices in Brampton, Pickering, Kitchener, Windsor and Cobalt.


It’s a steel

Thieves took $150,000 worth of aluminum already cut and formed and destined to be a new roof over the Vancouver Convention Centre. The aluminum was stolen from an industrial area in Surrey’s Port Kells. According to the RCMP the theft took place over three or four days.

A French construction company, Novarka, is to build a giant steel cover over the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the Ukraine. The steel cover will be 190 m x 200 m, to replace a deteriorating concrete casing that was laid over the reactor after it burned out of control in 1986. The reactor still contains 95% of its original nuclear material.

The annual salary survey held by the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA) showed that its members’ salaries had risen 8% over the period 2006-2007. The average base salary for its members, including students, is $105,264. Those who work in Fort McMurray, Lakeland and Yellowhead tend to make the most money.


Award Winners at Construct Canada

At the 19th annual Construct Canada Trade Show and Conference in Toronto, winners from the 2007 Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards will be presenting their projects.

Entitled “Building Innovation,” the session is part of the Green Building Conference section. It will be held Thursday, November 28 at 2.30 p.m.

Attendance is complimentary to subscribers to Canadian Consulting Engineer’s bi-monthly E-Bulletin. If you are not a subscriber, e-mail

Construct Canada is the largest construction conference and trade show in Canada. It has over 400 seminars and 200 product demonstrations. It takes place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s South Building, November 28-30.


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