Canadian Consulting Engineer

The Logistics of Judging

A logistical nightmare loomed as we prepared to judge the 35th Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards. The jury was all set to meet in June in the usual location at the offices of Canadian Consulting ...

October 1, 2003  By Bronwen Parsons

A logistical nightmare loomed as we prepared to judge the 35th Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards. The jury was all set to meet in June in the usual location at the offices of Canadian Consulting Engineer, when the World Health Organization issued a travel alert warning people to stay away from Toronto. It didn’t seem fair to ask the jurors to take the risk by entering the beleaguered city — no matter how noble the cause.

We scrambled to find a solution within our travel budget. We thought of dividing the jury into east and west, so that they could meet in different locations. But then how would they decide on the Schreyer? We tried changing the venue to Ottawa, but economy flight schedules weren’t cooperating. What about having the judges stay at home and shipping all the project binders to them? Visions of lost courier packages made me nervous. Besides, there wasn’t time for the projects to do the rounds, and long-distance judging would mean no face to face discussions — a critical part when it comes to the final stages of selecting the winners.

In the end the SARS threat faded and the jury — brave souls — came to Toronto on June 7. The result is 11 award-winning projects that demonstrate again the excellent and wide-ranging skills of Canadian consulting engineers (see Chair’s remarks, p. 22). The Schreyer Award goes to a massive industrial project done in the U.S. by AMEC E&C Services’ Montreal office. The Solvay Paperboard project in Syracuse is impressive by its sheer scale and complexity. However, the real interest is in its multi-faceted environmental approach. The new boardstock machine uses 100% recycled paper as its feedstock, but it also reduces the total effluent from the plant as a whole by 400,000 gallons a day, and it reduces the plant’s overall energy consumption. Solvay’s interdependent systems remind me of ideas author and environmentalist Paul Hawken began advocating in the 1990s. He envisaged whole industrial parks where different manufacturers and producers feed off one another, one plant using another’s byproducts, to the point where in an ideal world the whole system is a closed cycle with no emissions, no waste — no pollution.

This year we decided to give all Awards of Excellence, rather than having the two-tier system of Awards of Merit and Awards of Excellence. Both the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada and Canadian Consulting Engineer felt it was a better practice, partly because often there have been only marginal differences in the quality of the two types of winners in the past.

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Like the jurors who ventured into SARS-infected Toronto, engineers who enter awards are actually quite intrepid souls, being willing to put their work on the line. What rings in my ears is a remark made privately by one of the jurors on the day following the judging. She said that it had struck her just how much everything in these programs “hangs on a thread.” What she meant, I believe, was that she found it daunting to have to make decisions that would leave some engineers so happy, and others disappointed, when it was clear all 50 projects submitted had been done with great enthusiasm, thoroughness and skill.

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