Canadian Consulting Engineer

What’s News…

December 1, 2007
By Canadian Consulting Engineer



Quebec sets up special agency for bridges

On October 18, the Johnson Commission of Inquiry released its report on the collapse of the de la Concorde Overpass in Laval near Montreal last year.

A 20-metre section of the overpass fell, crushing to death five people travelling on the road below, and injuring six others.

The Quebec government quickly responded to the commission’s findings. The day after the report was released the Ministry of Transport announced a “road network modernization plan.” Under this plan, the government said it will devote itself to restoring 83% of the roads and 80% of the structures to good condition within 15 years. It will be investing a total of $11.6 billion over the next four years for immediate “recovery” of the road network.

The Quebec government also announced it would be tabling a bill in the National Assembly to create a special agency responsible for bridges and overpasses. The new agency will be in charge of 10,000 structures, including 4,400 bridges and 838 overpasses in smaller municipalities (those with less than 100,000 inhabitants). The Quebec Transport Ministry will remain responsible for the road networks.

There will also be new procedures for planning, designing and maintaining bridges and overpasses. These measures include establishing a “personal record” for each structure, so as to be able to monitor its status throughout its life and to ensure the “traceability of each action.”


Johnson Commission identifies shear failure in Laval

The Johnson Commission looking into the collapse of the de la Concorde overpass in Laval found its structural causes were a shear failure of the southeast cantilever. It was the deterioration of concrete, not the rebar, that caused the collapse, and this was due to the development and growth of a crack under the upper rebars, starting from the beam seat area.

At the same time, the experts reached consensus that: (1) there was improper rebar detailing during design; (2) there was improper rebar installation at the time of construction; (3) low quality concrete was used for the abutments.

One of the main problems was that the 1970s bridge had an unusual structural design that did not allow for inspections. The commission noted: “because they are impossible to inspect, continuous beam seats along spans have not been built for the last 30 years and would not be allowed under current codes.”

The commission did, however, recommend changes to the current bridge design standard, CSA-S6-2006.

The commissioners deplored the Quebec Transport Ministry’s management of its infrastructure, saying “It is clear that for over 30 years, the [Ministry] staff was aware of the peculiarities of the de la Concorde overpass … Yet for the entire period of time during which the MTQ was responsible for the overpass, the structure was never subjected to an inspection and maintenance program that took into account its particular characteristics, notably, the critical beam seats at the end of the cantilevers.”

As for assigning blame, the commission said that “no single entity or individual can be assigned the responsibility of the collapse.” However, it did find that some of the companies involved in the construction project 40 years ago, including the engineers, Desjardins Sauriol and Associates, and the contractor, Inter State Paving, played an “inadequate role,” in particular over their site and supervision duties. However, the commission also noted that the bridge design “did not contravene any critical provisions of CSA Standard S6-1966,” the standard of the time.



BCIT Aerospace Campus shaped for flight

The British Columbia Institute of Technology’s new Aerospace Technology Campus opened this fall. The $65-million, 28,300-sq.m building has an irregular form because of its location. On a site adjacent to Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., the building rises from two to five storeys in order to meet NavCan restrictions and not interfere with the flight path from the airport’s south terminal. The structure also has a special laminated glazed wall system to cut down on noise.

With a capacity for 1,000 students, the building has 22 workshops that replicate industry conditions and a 3,716-sq.m hangar that can accommodate 20 training aircraft, including a new Boeing 737.

Kasian Architecture led the integrated design team, which includes Weiler Smith Bowers as structural engineers, MCW as mechanical and electrical engineers, ND Lea (now MMM Group) as civil engineers, and Trow for geotechnical engineering.


October-November Cover

The photograph on the cover of the October-November issue showed the R. Fraser Elliott Hall in the Four Seasons Centre, Toronto. It was incorrectly identified as the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre in Medicine Hat, Alberta. A photograph of the latter appeared on pages 28-29. Both theatres played a role in the Schreyer Award and were by Aercoustics Engineering and Diamond Schmitt Architects. Photographer of both was Tim Griffith. We apologize for the error.


Coffee comes with wood

Among the winners in the 7th Annual Ontario Wood Works Awards, the “jury’s choice, corporate leader” was the TDL Group of Oakville. TDL was selected for using wood in its Tim Hortons stores. In 2006 and 2007, 30% of the stores built in Ontario were wood frame construction.

Engineering firms among the winners were: NORR Architects and Engineers in the institutional category for the Canada Border Services Agency Building at the Peace Bridge. Blackwell Bowick Partnership won for its structural design of the same building.

Robert J. Dyck Architect and Engineer won in the multi-unit wood design section for the Wellington Park Terrace in Guelph.


Stantec delves into carbon trading

Stantec has teamed up with a company called EcoSecurities to help clients verify and trade their carbon credits. EcoSecurities is based in New York. It has been operating in the business of sourcing and trading carbon credits throughout the world since 1997.


Industrial pollutants take health toll, say UBC researchers

A study led by the University of British Columbia concluded that environmental pollutants cause up to 25,000 deaths in Canada every year. A paper on the findings, by Ph.D candidate John Boyd at UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, was published in the journal Environmental Research at the end of September. Co-author of the paper was Dr. Stephen Genuis at the University of Alberta.

Boyd and Genuis used public health data, together with a methodology developed by the World Health Organization to come up with their findings. The pollutants they considered were air pollution, pesticides, dioxins, heavy metals, flame retardants and other persistent organic pollutants. They measured the effects in respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and congenital afflictions.

In UBC’s newsletter, Boyd said that the findings “highlight Canada’s weak environmental health regulations… In our cultural DNA, we think of Canada as a pristine nation, but this is at odds with our track record on the environment.”

The study estimates that the effects of toxic chemicals are costing our health care system up to $9.1 billion annually.


Dusseldorf-Wuppertal interchange during a driving ban in Germany, November 15, 1973. Photograph KPA/dpa. From the exhibition “1973: Sorry, Out of Gas” at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, on until April 2008. The exhibition explores the response to the 1970s oil crisis a
nd includes photographs and drawings of early solar powered buildings.


Gartner Lee bought by AECOM IBI acquires PEIL Stantec buys Neill and Gunter

The environmental and geoscience engineering company Gartner Lee has been acquired by AECOM Technology Corporation.

Gartner Lee began in 1973 and is based in Markham, Ontario. It has 330 employees in 16 offices across Canada. Aecom is an international firm listed on the New York stock exchange. It has 31,000 employees, including 1,600 in Canada. It also owns UMA Engineering.

The IBI Group of Toronto has acquired Planning & Engineering Initiatives Limited (PEIL) of Kitchener, Ontario. PEIL does planning, civil engineering and landscape architecture. It launched 30 years ago and has 63 professional staff in five offices in southern Ontario. IBI Group is owned 63% by IBI Income Fund, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. It employs 1,500 people worldwide.

Stantec has acquired Neill and Gunter, a firm of 650 employees primarily located in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Portland, Maine. Neill and Gunter has been in business for 40 years, working in industry and natural resources.


Concordia murderer sues colleagues

A former engineering professor of Concordia University who shot and killed four other professors in August 1992 was in Quebec Superior Court in early November.

Valery Fabrikant is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for his murder conviction. However, he has launched a civil suit against five of his former colleagues saying that they profited from his research on scientific papers in the 1980s.


Making Cool History

Canada’s HVAC Heritage Centre, a virtual museum that was launched last year, is seeking suggestions of “HVAC Pioneers.” see or e-mail


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