Canadian Consulting Engineer

PUBLIC RELATIONS: What’s in a name?

August 1, 2001
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The national organization of consulting engineers in the U.S. has decided that "consulting engineer" is a poorly understood term, and has decided to change its title accordingly. The board of director...

The national organization of consulting engineers in the U.S. has decided that “consulting engineer” is a poorly understood term, and has decided to change its title accordingly. The board of directors of the former American Council of Consulting Engineers voted unanimously in May to change its name to the American Council of Engineering Companies.

The decision was made after a public relations firm did research and found that the term “consulting engineer” did not mean much to the general public, nor to the courts or others outside the engineering industry. The new name, however, tested well among outside groups as well as the ACEC’s member firms.

The president of the organization said: “This is an important development for ACEC, whose origins date back nearly a century…. We are still consulting engineers, but our practice has grown widely and the new name better describes that we are an association of companies rather than individuals.”

The Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada has no current plans to abandon the term “consulting engineer.” On the contrary; executive director Tim Page points out that some larger firms here even think they should be moving in the opposite direction to that taken by the Americans i.e. that firms would be wise to promote the broader consulting side of business rather than their traditional core engineering role.

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AWARDS: First recognition in Saskatchewan

Consulting Engineers of Saskatchewan announced the winners of its first Annual Awards of Excellence in June. Winners were UMA Engineering for the Canadian Light Source Synchrotron Facility (see CCE December 2000). UMA is doing project construction management and engineering for the conventional facility, and support engineering for the $174 million science facilities. Subconsultants include AMEC Earth & Environmental, Dr. Bruce Sparling and BKL. UMA won another award of excellence for the Town of Biggar Treated Sewage Effluent Disposal project, done in association with Henry Perspectives.

Stantec Consulting won an award of excellence for the Grant Road Park Detention Facility, which was constructed last year to provide improved flood protection for residents of Whitmore Park in South Regina. Bosgoed Project Consultants won an award of merit for the Treaty Four Governance Centre, Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, a First Nations complex including legislative assembly and office. The first phase opened in September 2000 and was built by a workforce made up of 65% First Nations people.

PRACTICE: Quebec consulting engineers resist union salary rates

The Association of Consulting Engineers of Quebec/Association des ingenieurs-conseils du Qubec (AICQ) has grave concerns about Bill 31 that was passed by the Quebec National Assembly just before it broke up for the summer recess.

Bill 31 — which replaced an earlier aborted Bill 182 — was meant to clarify rules in the Quebec Labour Code, including certain parts of Article 45. The AICQ, however, believes the new law has still left the rules in Article 45 unclear, and the result could seriously damage Quebec consulting engineering firms’ ability to do business. Some estimates put the added costs for consulting firms at 25%-50% more.

The troublesome part of Article 45 of the Labour Code affects whether collective agreements apply when an operation or business is transferred from one entity to another. Recently, when a municipality has decided to outsource an operation or service to the private sector, labour organizations have brought court challenges, saying that Article 45 applies. If they are proved right — and cases are still going through the courts — then a consulting firm taking over the outsourced operation would have to pay the same rates as government staff engineers whose wages are set by collective agreements.

PRACTICE: British Columbia has new client/consultant agreement

Consulting Engineers of B.C. has endorsed a new client/consultant agreement published this summer. The document is issued by the Master Municipal Contract Documents Association, which was initiated in the early 1990s when it was realized that 20 municipalities of the Lower Mainland area were using different contracts to handle similar works.

The working committee on the new client/consulting agreement was headed by Ken Wright, P.Eng. of the City of Coquitlam and included Frank Wilton, P.Eng., president of Citiwest Consulting as chief negotiator on behalf of CEBC.

The new agreement includes several new provisions. For example, the scope of services has been clearly divided into “basic” and additional” items. Fee payment items have been divided into “defined” and “variable” sections to recognize the benefits of innovation and analysis by the consultant at the concept and design stages.

MAILBOX: Cruising out of green

Thank you for the strong environmental messages in recent issues of Canadian Consulting Engineer. It is high time that engineering professionals were made aware of their responsibilities in this regard.

It is unfortunate that the magazine comes packaged with an advertising brochure for luxury cars — the conflict is obvious.

Mike Thomas, P.Eng.

Cambridge, Ont.

Zero-emission coal is too good to be true

In “Coal: Fossil with a Future,” by Kevin Widenmaier, P.Eng. (March-April), there was a description of the ZECA — A Path to Zero Emission Coal. ZECA was described as a “highly efficient means of generating electricity while producing no emissions and permanently sequestering CO2.” The beautiful block diagram showed inputs of coal/water slurry and hydrogen resulting in outputs of electricity, with the CO2 going to mineral carbonation where it is sequestered in a natural and benign product.

Electricity from coal with no greenhouse gases? When something sounds too good to be true it probably isn’t. Where does the hydrogen input come from? If it is from reformation of natural gas, then lots of CO2 is released as a byproduct. If it is from electrolysis using electricity from an emission-free nuclear generating station, would it not have been more efficient to forget the coal and just use the nuclear generated electricity?

Neil Craik, P.Eng.

Fredericton, N.B.

Canadian Consulting Engineer welcomes your comments. Write to the Editor, 1450 Don Mills Rd., Toronto, Ont., M3B 2X7, fax (416) 442-2214, e-mail

TECHNOLOGY: Finding new ways to build

At a symposium on construction innovation held in Ottawa in June, Dr. Gilbert Normand, Canada’s Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development, challenged the construction industry to come forward with recommendations for partnering with the federal government.

The symposium — called the Construction Innovation Forum: Building an Action Plan for Canada — was organized by the Institute for Research in Construction/National Research Council. The participants reached consensus on some points, including that the knowledge level in the industry had to be raised, and that the life cost of a project should be considered, not just the initial cost.

PEOPLE: Lorimer, Huggins and Stewart

Bob Lorimer, P.Eng. of Whitehorse, B.C. has been elected president of FEPAC, the Pan-American Federation of Consultants. Lorimer, who has a consulting engineering firm in Whitehorse, B.C., is the first person from a non-Latin country to be appointed to the position.

Consulting Engineers of B.C. and Consulting Engineers of Ontario have new presidents. Norm Huggins, P.Eng., vice-president of CH2M Hill Canada, was elected as Chairman of CEO at its annual meeting held May 17 in Stratford.

Ian Stewart, P.Eng., senior vice president with EBA Engineering, was elected president of CEBC on June 19.


Hans Robert Kivisild, P.Eng., a noted Calgary-based engineer who developed floating ice islands for Arctic oil and gas drilling, died in May. He retired as vice-president of Lavalin Offshore Limited in 1997 but continued his consulting
career of 35 years that took him across Canada, Europe and Asia.

Robert Shaw, ing. died in March. He was joint commissioner for Expo 67 in Montreal, responsible for construction of the site, and vice-president at McGill University.

BOOKS: Urban Planning and Development Applications of GIS

Said Easa and Yupo Chan, editors. American Society of Civil Engineers, 2000.

Review by Bernie Neary, senior GIS specialist, Gartner Lee consulting engineers, Mississauga, Ont.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology is a powerful tool for planners, developers and civil engineers. What distinguishes GIS from other information technologies is its ability to exploit position and topology as a method of integrating and visualizing diverse datasets, as well as for managing and analyzing them.

Municipal and provincial governments are using GIS to administer their land bases, evaluate development proposals and manage the operation of their utilities. Meanwhile, major progress in the software interfaces and the power of desktop workstations has taken GIS from being a tool suitable only for expert practitioners, to being a technology that is within the reach of many professionals with computer expertise.

As with other information technologies, GIS is developing rapidly. Assembling a book that purports to provide the most current findings on GIS applications, and that gears itself to be useful to both beginners and experts, is a challenging task. Editors Said Easa, P.Eng. and Yupo Chan have attempted to do this in Urban Planning and Development Applications of GIS with mixed results.

As with many books comprised of contributions from multiple authors, some chapters are stronger than others. M.T. Herzog contributes an excellent overview of GIS concepts, and another chapter (with J.W. Labadie) on stormwater and waste management. Also well presented are a chapter on trends in spatial databases by Siva Ravada and Jayant Sharma, and on program evaluation and policy analysis by Lisa DeLorenzo.

Other chapters are less successful, describing routine applications of the technology in a variety of urban planning and management situations. Despite the fact that the book was published last year, the hardware and software mentioned are now out of date (when was the last time you considered purchasing a 486 with 8 Mb of RAM?).

The book refers repeatedly to data sources, regulations and policies that are relevant only to the U.S. The American approach is to make digital geographic data freely accessible, whereas most Canadian data is available only for a significant cost.

While one should consult the internet for more current information on GIS capabilities, the book presents a reasonable overview of the technology and highlights its versatility. Beginners may benefit from a few of the introductory chapters, while experienced practitioners might pick up useful ideas from the GIS applications.

AWARDS: First Ontario concrete awards

Winning projects in the first Ontario Concrete Awards have been announced. In the cast-in-place categories winners were: Moore Creek Stormwater Management Facility for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, engineers Hatch Mott MacDonald and Azurix North America Engineering (structural design innovation); York University Honour Court and Entrance Pavilion, engineers Yolles Partnership (architectural merit); Santa Maria Foods Processing Facility, engineers William Leung & Associates (material innovation). In the precast categories winners were: Perley Bridge Replacement, engineers Lea Consulting, Groupe HBA, Pasquin St-Jean Associates and Desjardins Engineering (structural design innovation); Windsor Justice Facility, engineers Stantec Consulting (architectural merit); Gordon Street Bridge Reconstruction, Guelph, engineers TSH, Gamsby and Mannerow (material innovation).


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