Canadian Consulting Engineer

News (March 01, 2002)

March 1, 2002
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Sewer back-up project wins in AlbertaWith a "thoughtful and innovative engineering solution to the infrastructure needs of urban society," CH2M Hill claimed awards in two categories of the Consulting ...

Sewer back-up project wins in Alberta

With a “thoughtful and innovative engineering solution to the infrastructure needs of urban society,” CH2M Hill claimed awards in two categories of the Consulting Engineers of Alberta’s 2002 Showcase Awards, held in February. Using a state-of-the-art hydraulic model, the firm’s engineers investigated the causes of repeated sanitary sewer back-ups into basements. The directional drilling of the Forest Lawn Siphon project in Calgary won two Awards of Excellence, one in the studies software category and another in water resources.

SNC-Lavalin won an Award of Excellence in the environmental category (and an Award of Merit in project management) for the Naptha Stripper Project Husky Lloydminster Upgrader.

Stantec Consulting won three Awards of Excellence: for the University of Calgary Information and Communication Technology Building, the Nortel Networks Westwinds Innovation Centre in Calgary (building engineering), and the University of Alberta Project Management Office (project management).

Other Awards of Excellence went to Associated Engineering, for the 43rd Avenue Trunk Sewer (community outreach) in Camrose; AMEC Earth & Environmental for the Aurora Tailings Debris management System (natural resources), Nordic Acres Engineering for the Foster Creek Phase 1 Commercial SAGD Plant (natural resources); Techna-West Engineering for the Lehigh Cement Plant Modernization in Maryland (international); and UMA Engineering for the Sturgeon River Bridge in Villeneuve (transportation).

Awards of Merit went to 17 projects by firms that included those mentioned above as well as A.D. Williams, AMEC Infrastructure/CWA, Infrastructure Systems, EBA, Hemisphere, Golder and GPEC.

EXPORT: Stricter environmental rules for export projects

Consulting engineers who do business overseas with the financial support of Export Development Canada are facing new rules. A Bill revising the Export Development Act was passed in the Canadian Parliament at the end of 2001. It requires that EDC review the environmental impact of projects before it agrees to lend its financial support. The Act also changed EDC’s name from Export Development Corporation to Export Development Canada.

The rule changes follow a report by the Auditor General that found shortfalls in the way EDC operates. Some non-governmental organizations have also been very vocal in their opposition to EDC’s sponsorship of megaprojects in developing countries. Probe International, a Toronto-based organization, criticizes the use of Canadian taxpayers’ money to support projects such as large hydro-electric dams, gold mines and nuclear power plants, which they claim often cause wide-scale social and environmental harm.

Following the passage of Bill C-31, EDC has issued a proposed Environmental Review Directive to establish methods for project review and its officials were seeking input across Canada this spring. The proposed requirements affect projects worth more than $10 million, and require that EDC post notice on its web site that it is intending to finance a project at least 45 days before completing the transaction.

Large consulting engineering firms and other exporters are worried about EDC disclosing details of their projects, believing it will place Canadian firms at a disadvantage in competing with engineering firms from other countries. They argue that governments and other private clients do not like revealing their plans, and would rather do business free from such restrictions.

On the other hand, critics don’t believe that the EDC directive goes far enough. Unlike the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, for example, EDC will not require that independent third parties review the most controversial projects. As well, the World Bank’s financial arm has a list of projects that are automatically refused financial backing because they are too environmentally sensitive, but the EDC does not have such a list.

MAILBOX: Warning: fresh air intake

I have been in the HVAC business for over 20 years. Paul Marmion’s article entitled “Coping with Terrorism” (December 2001, p. 43) has reminded me how vulnerable most commercial buildings are to:

— a terrorist attack via the ventilation system (worst case)

— poor indoor air quality caused by poor outdoor air quality (best case).

During the design process of a building, the mechanical engineer usually lobbies for a good location for the outdoor air intake. Often the architect will overrule the “best practice” from a ventilation standpoint because the unsightly intake louvers will destroy the image of the building (and the attached ego of the architect), or because ventilation shafts are costly and take up valuable floor space. The result is a boom for the sign making industry “Warning — Fresh Air Intake, do not leave vehicle engine running.” Most ventilation systems operate at a minimum of six air changes per hour, therefore contaminated air could reach building occupants within 10 minutes.

The events of September 11 emphasize the fact that the design team must cooperate to find innovative ways to place the outdoor air intake in the least vulnerable location. If building occupants fell victim to a terrorist attack via the ventilation system, it would be interesting to hear a legal opinion on the liability resulting from a poor location for the outdoor air intake.

David Cousins, P.Eng.


Straight talk talks

Your editorial (“A Public Message,” Comment, January-February 2002) is close to my heart. Engineers all seem to think that the more flowery and obscure they make their writing, the more mystique they have and the more they impress the reader.

As regards graduate engineers, I find that I have had to explain to them that many of our reports are for developers who are smart, but not technically minded, and that the developers are advised by their lawyers and accountants, who are also smart, but non technical. If those people don’t understand, the report has failed in its purpose. This all begs the question — if students cannot write intelligently, how can they graduate?

I recommend Communication for Professional Engineers by Bill Scott and published by Thomas Telford. It should be mandatory reading for all writers of engineering reports.

Colin Alston, P.Eng.

Alston Associates, Markham, Ont.

HISTORY: Virtual HVAC museum in the works,/b>

The founding committee for the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada has announced it is establishing a virtual learning centre for the public as well as the industry. The centre will be a national collection and catalogue of significant historical artifacts and business records of the heating, ventilating air conditioning and refrigeration industry. It will make these available in exhibitions, publications and on the Internet.

“The HVACR field has laid the very foundations for contemporary Canadian life by providing many of the basic conditions needed for human health, diet, comfort and convenience. Yet few of us know these stories,” notes the founding committee. The chair is Norman B. Fraser of Brampton, Ontario. Tel. (905) 458-9988 or e-mail


The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has signed a letter of cooperation with the Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation (CIPEC), indicating that it endorses the concept of sustainable development, recognizes the need to balance environmental and economic considerations, and will encourage its membership to develop and implement plans for improved energy efficiency.

With a membership of more than 20,000 enterprises, the CCA represents the interests of Canada’s largest industry.

ASSOCIATIONS: John Gamble heads Consulting Engineers of Ontario

A new president is installed at Consulting Engineers of Ontario. John Gamble, P. Eng. was appointed to the role upon the retirement of Don Ingram, P.Eng. late last year.

Gamble has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Queen’s University, and spent most of his career in the consulting engineerin
g industry as a project engineer with Gore & Storrie Limited (now called CH2M Hill Canada). He comes to CEO after two and a half years as manager of government relations with Professional Engineers of Ontario. Prior to that, he spent three years at Queen’s Park as a special assistant to the Environment Minister.


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