Canadian Consulting Engineer


March 1, 2013
By Canadian Consulting Engineer



Elliot Lake mall collapsed due to single connector

Hearings into what caused the fatal collapse of a roof at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake began on March 5. Things didn’t start off well, with the mall’s owner, Robert Nazarian, withholding thousands of e-mails and documents, prompting Commissioner Paul Belanger to take him to court.

On March 6, John Kadlec, the original structural engineer of the mall which opened in 1980, testified that he had doubts about the wisdom of putting a parking garage on a rooftop in the first place. He had also expressed concerns about shoddy construction. According to Canadian Press reports, Kadlec’s defence was that he was “part of a team” and had only visited the site a few times. Asked about problems with the waterproofing, he said, “I know nothing about waterproofing … it’s a different profession.”

A surveillance video shot on the fatal day on June 23 last year shows the roof starting to break apart after a car drives over a seam in the roof. In a 700-page forensic report done by NORR, engineers say they believe the problem was a single steel connector on a column that had corroded badly, thanks to years of salt water leaking through the roof. The mall was notoriously badly maintained. NORR said they were surprised that the connector had held the roof up for so long. When it gave way above a kiosk in the mall, concrete slabs and a parked SUV came crashing down, killing two women and injuring 20.

Professional Engineers of Ontario had revoked Kadlec’s licence in 1994, but reinstated it in 1999. He was not given a certificate of authorization to practice.

The purpose of the Inquiry is to investigate the events surrounding the collapse of the roof and to make recommendations to prevent such occurrences in the future.

A fascinating article on the problem-plagued history of the mall was published in Maclean’s, March 11, 2013.


Calgary’s largest infrastructure project wins top award

Consulting Engineers of Alberta celebrated its annual Showcase Awards on January 26 at the Edmonton Expo Centre. “Arabian Nights” was the theme for the evening.

Awards of excellence went to the following:

– Dialog and Yolles/CH2M HILL for the Edmonton Clinic and the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (buildings category). The two firms partnered to “super-fast-track” the structural designs for this 1,250,000 sq. ft., $900-million project at the University of Alberta. One building is in cast-in-place concrete, and the other is in structural steel.

– Hatch Mott MacDonald won two awards of excellence (transportation and project management) for the fast-track delivery of Calgary’s West LRT. The 8-kilometre extension to Calgary’s LRT includes 1.5 kilometres of elevated guideway, 2.5 kilometres of tunnel and trench, and 4 kilometres of at-grade rail alignment, as well as six stations. The project is the largest infrastructure project in Calgary’s history and was completed in five years.

– ISL Engineering and Land Services for the Exshaw Municipal Water System (water resources/energy). The low tech, low maintenance system effectively treats complex raw water and has a low lifecycle cost.

– Stantec Consulting for the Calgary Public Building Restoration (sustainable design). Stantec did mechanical engineering and commissioning for the project, which restored original mechanical design features and added new technologies to the heritage building.

– CH2M HILL Canada for the Jackpine Mine Integrated Closure, Conservation and Reclamation Plan (natural resources/mining/industry). Completed for Shell Canada in the Athabasca Oil Sands region, the plan outlines the return of reclaimed mine uplands, wetlands and lakes to the equivalent of pre-development conditions.

– SMA Consulting for a Risk-Based Infrastructure Management System (RIMS) for the City of Edmonton (small firm/big impact). The system uses generic algorithms to generate asset management strategies, giving options for cost and performance.

– SMA Consulting for the West Edmonton Sanitary Sewer, Stage W12 (studies/software/special services). The tunnel is a $44-million, 1,135-m syphon under the North Saskatchewan River. It connects northwest Edmonton to the Goldbar Wastewater Treatment plant. SMA Consulting provided decision support techniques, including simulation and 4D visualization.

– MMM Group for the Calgary Zoo Antarctic Landing (community development). MMM Group engineered the complex servicing, grading and drainage for the Penguin Plunge exhibit.

– Golder Associates for the Caring for Communities project, including its support for 25 charitable causes and the Golder Trust for Orphans (community outreach).

– EBA/Tetra Tech for Community Aid Work in Ethopia for the organization Partners in the Horn of Africa (community outreach).

Three individuals won 2013 CEA Lieutenant Governor Awards for Distinguished Achievement. One was Charlie Weir, who passed away in March 2012. He was the second chief executive officer and a former senior partner of the firm Stewart Weir. John Chomiak, chief executive officer and president of Hemisphere Engineering, and Gino Ferri, a principal at Read Jones Christoffersen, were also recipients.

The 2013 Harold L. Morrison Rising Young Professional Award went to Robin Zirnhelt, P.Eng. of ISL Engineering.


Preparing for the Plug-In Era

Utility managers, manufacturers, government policy makers and power worker unions were at the 2nd Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Summit held by the Strategy Institute in downtown Toronto on February 5-6. Ontario has a goal of having electric vehicles make up 5% of the traffic on its roads by 2020. British Columbia and Quebec are further along. In Vancouver a pilot study involving 70 public charging stations is under way, and Quebec Hydro already has 150 charging stations installed in 34 cities.

Jim Burpee, P.Eng., president and chief executive office of the Canadian Electricity Association, said that environmental concerns are driving the growth in electric vehicles. Transportation is a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions, currently producing 31% of Canada’s emissions, compared to 16% from electricity generation. Plugging your car into an electricity source means plugging into a much greener power source than gasoline. But as well, Burpee pointed out, there’s the fact that electric motors are “vastly more efficient” than the internal combustion engine.

What hasn’t been assessed, however, is the impact on the electricity grid, said Burpee. If electric vehicles are adopted at a mass scale, there may have to be rules as to who can charge when, and where. “All hell could break loose” if too many people are charging their cars at home at the same time, he suggested. Frequent power failures would of course affect reliability —  no power; no vehicle; no way to get to work.

His slide of an Environics study in Vancouver suggests that home electric vehicle charging will happen in geographic clusters, and that residential peak power usage in some areas will rise 155%.

Already Canada has an ageing electricity grid and ageing power stations, which will require approximately $294 billion in upgrades over the next 20 years, said Burpee.

Malcolm Shield, climate programs engineer with the City of Vancouver’s Sustainability Group, said they are researching long-term strategies for siting the charging infrastructure and are currently looking at installing stations near cell phone towers. The other types of locations are malls, libraries and community centres.

Shield pointed out that Vancouver is a relatively dense city which means that running range for electric vehicles is not so critical. As well. Vancouver has its own building code so
it was able to mandate that all new buildings must supply 20% of their parking spaces with vehicle charging equipment.


Stephenson, Enermodal, RJC

Stephenson Engineering, structural engineers of Toronto, has opened an office in Calgary. The office will be run by Pat Romerman who recently joined the company.

Braden Kurzak of Enermodal Engineering/MMM in Kitchener has been named one of McMaster University’s People of Impact – in company with astronaut Roberta Bondar and politician Tommy Douglas.

Read Jones Christoffersen has appointed three new principals: Daryl Prefontaine, P.Eng. in Edmonton, Bryan Colvin, P.Eng. in Calgary, and Brent Lodge, P.Eng. in Toronto. Chris Davis has been appointed an associate in Calgary.


Wrong church pictured

The photograph on p. 6 of the January-February issue was of Marie-Reine-du-Monde in Montreal, not St. Patrick’s Basilica as stated. St. Patrick’s is a few blocks to the east.



Almost half a million buildings surveyed

The NRCan Office of Energy Efficiency’s Survey of Commercial and Institutional Energy Use – Buildings 2009 Detailed Statistical Report has been published.

The researchers found:

• There were more than 480,000 commercial and
institutional buildings in
Canada in 2009.

• More than 34% were built between 1970 and 1989.

• Nearly half of the 480,000 buildings were in the Great Lakes climate zone.

• The overall energy intensity of the buildings in Canada was 1.10 GJ/m2 in 2009.

• Natural gas was the primary energy source for space heating by the majority (54.0%).

• Nearly half (45.6%) had some type of renovation done in the last five years.


Massively Schooled

Around 30 universities around the world are offering “Massive Open Online Courses,” or MOOCs, reports SFU News. The courses are free and have no enrolment limits, no prerequisites and no credit, but are being taken increasingly seriously in academia. The University of Toronto, University of B.C. and Harvard offer MOOCs, which are given through programs like Coursera.


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