April 4, 2017, a civil engineer from Hatch, Keith Threadkell, presented on the construction of the Port Mann Main Water Supply Tunnel at a lunch and learn in UBC. The presentation focused on major problems faced and key decisions in tunnelling work for the project. Some of the challenges faced include variable soil conditions and issues with the tunnel boring machine, all of which lengthened construction. However, despite the delay, Hatch managed to complete the project under budget while keeping the client satisfied. This involved careful planning, risk assessments, an appropriate contingency, and good communication between all parties. Overall, the presentation highlighted the importance of project management and communication skills in order for companies to cope with unexpected problems.

Keith Threadkell is a civil engineer with 12 years’ experience in heavy civil construction. Keith specializes in Construction Management (CM) with various key roles on many projects in Metro Vancouver. His CM experience includes tunnels, dams, and highways where he performed a wide variety of CM tasks, such as supervision of site safety, quality control, cost estimation of change orders, dispute resolution, review of contractor claims, scheduling, field inspections, coordination of communication, contractor submittals review, cost control, and technical advice.

On March 18, 2017, the UBC CSCE Student Chapter welcomed Corey Johnson from Kiewit to present on being a construction engineer with the company. He has spent the past seventeen years working with Kiewit on multiple highway improvement projects and graciously shared his experience with the chapter.

Corey’s time with Kiewit has allowed him to work on projects locally and across Canada, including the Port Mann and Highway 1 Improvement project, the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project, and the Watino Bridge Project in Alberta. He discussed the challenges associated with each of these, such as the bitter cold experienced during the construction of the Watino Bridge and the extensive night work required for Highway 1. Corey also briefly mentioned Kiewit’s employee training program through Kiewit University in Omaha, Nebraska and the valuable knowledge he has gained through it.


The lecture provided some valuable insight on the Kiewit company and introduced Chapter members to some lesser known aspects of civil engineering. We would like to thank Corey for providing this lecture and also Kiewit for once again partnering with the Student Chapter.


Speaker Bio: 

On February 28th, 2017, The UBC CSCE Student Chapter welcomed Nedim Alca, Vice President of COWI North America, to present on the St Croix River Bridge located in Minnesota, USA. The St Croix River Bridge, almost complete, will be the largest extradosed bridge constructed to date in North America.

Nedim began by explaining how stakeholders impacted the design of the bridge. Since the St Croix River is a designated wild and scenic river, the slope of the bridge was designed to match the mountain line behind it. It also incorporated leaf style columns to minimize obstruction of the view corridor. Furthermore, Nedim explained how the bridge deck was transported via river and had to be carried across the deck span to preserve the wetlands on the approach span and to avoid harming the wildlife. Nedim also explained some of the intensive structural analysis that was conducted to account for wind loads and bending of the deck and their solution for them.

Overall, this was a great lecture highlighted the amount of variables to account for when designing and constructing a bridge of such magnitude. We would like to thank Nedim for taking the time to share this project with us.

Speaker Bio:

Nedim Alca, P.Eng., P.E., Vice President, COWI Bridge North America

Nedim received his B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey and his M.Sc. in structural engineering from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta. Other than a one-year sabbatical at wind & dynamics experts RWDI, he has been with COWI (formerly Buckland & Taylor) since 1994. He has worked on the design and construction of bridges of all types and sizes with particular interest in segmental concrete and cable supported bridges.

On January 31, the UBC CSCE Student Chapter welcomed Matthew Sauer from S-Frame to give a tutorial on his company’s structural analysis software. Mr. Sauer is a UBC Okanagan Alumni who has worked with S-Frame for nearly five years, creating and facilitating instructional tutorials on the S-Frame software. S-Frame is used extensively in structural analysis and, in fact, used to model the current tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa.

The tutorial was targeted towards 2nd year students, who could use the software when modelling trusses for their CIVIL 228 design project. Licenses were generously distributed in advance to all 2nd year students, and were also available after the tutorial for upper-year students. Mr. Sauer was an excellent instructor, and effectively explained how to model and analyse structural designs using S-Frame. This tutorial was incredibly helpful, and we look forward to having S-Frame present again next year!



On January 6, 2017, the UBC CSCE Student Chapter visited the Lafarge Cement Plant in Richmond, BC to learn more about the cement manufacturing process. The Richmond Cement Plant is one of the two cement plants that exists in BC and is one of the six cement plants Lafarge owns across Canada.

Matt Dalkie, the Technical Services Engineer of Lafarge Cement, started the tour with a short video presentation outlining the cement manufacturing process. He then guided us through the different laboratories that operated inside the plant. These laboratories test different raw materials and cement samples from the plant to ensure that they pass all industry and government requirements.  The tour continued with a site visit of the different equipment used in the process such as the pre-heaters and cement kiln. Since the cement plant was down for the day due to maintenance, we could get a closer look at the different equipment.

Overall, the tour was a great experience and everyone learned a lot. We could appreciate our materials and concrete courses more because of the tour. The UBC CSCE Student Chapter would like to thank Matt, Cassandra, and the rest of the Lafarge Cement team for accommodating us.

Alex Thompson on Challenges of High Arctic Engineering

On October 21st 2016, the UBC CSCE Student Chapter invited Alex Thompson to give a presentation on the Challenges of Design and Construction in the High Arctic. In 2015, Alex spent most of the summer on a construction site in Nanisivik located on the northern tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut. While he was there, he witnessed many of the challenges associated with having a project site located so far north. Project equipment and materials had to be shipped in by boat and required over two months of travel time to arrive on site. This meant the contractor had to plan well ahead of time in order to meet project deadlines. The project required on-site mechanics and several spare parts for their machinery in order to quickly repair any equipment malfunctions instead of having replacement parts shipped. Due to permafrost conditions, the foundation designs required that the top layers of soil be removed until a layer of soil that would remain permanently frozen was reached. The excavation was then backfilled with non-frost susceptible soil to achieve a firm foundation to build upon. In addition, the project had to generate all their own power using diesel generators.

Alex Thompson on the Challenges of High Arctic Engineering

Alex Thompson on the Challenges of High Arctic Engineering

Justin Brown pointing at wood for UBC CSCE's StructureCraft Tour

The UBC CSCE Student Chapter organized a tour to the StructureCraft office in Delta, BC. The visit included a presentation as well as tour of StructureCraft’s in-house fabrication shop.

Justin Brown pointing at wood for UBC CSCE's StructureCraft Tour

Justin Brown pointing at wood for UBC CSCE’s StructureCraft Tour

Justin Brown, a past member of the Chapter and now structural engineer at StructureCraft, headed the tour. The presentation covered high profile projects that StructureCraft has undertaken and successfully completed. Justin went over the design and construction of the T3 building in Minneapolis, introducing many of the attendees to novel wood construction techniques that StructureCraft has pioneered. Using these techniques, the project was able to save substantial cost while also optimizing the build process.

UBC CSCE Members Up Close With Structural Timber

UBC CSCE Members Up Close With Structural Timber

The shop tour allowed the students to see the practical side of the structural engineering business and the interface between design and construction. Most of the wood products that the students learn about in their courses were on display at the shop. The tour was introduced to the concept of modular construction where much of the structure is assembled in the shop itself and shipped out to site saving a significant amount of time and requiring much less manpower.


On September 25, the UBC CSCE Student Chapter welcomed Robert Jackson to present on the Brock Commons Timber building. Robert Jackson is a UBC Alumni and worked intimately as lead structural engineer on the Brock Commons project since its inception. He is also the recipient of the Young Structural Engineering Professional Award, commending his efforts as a skilled individual who is driving his profession forward. This innovative design by Fast+Epp is internationally renowned for its construction of the tallest timber building in the world.UBC_CSCE_FAST_AND_EPP_LUNCH_AND_LEARN_PHOTO

The case study outlined key design considerations whenusing timber extensively. Concerns such as vibrational remediation, timber creep reduction, and cross panel timber shearing forces were outlined, as well as resolution methods.  Major design considerations included prefabrication and on-time delivery of the CLT floor panels and glulam columns. The efficient assembly of Brock Commons, at a speed of two floors per week, was a result of extensive planning and prefabrication.

The goal for this building was to illustrate how timber is a legitimate material to be considered when building high-rises, in both its stability and economic feasibility. We look forward to the opening of this tremendous building on our very own campus in the future.

Our speaker for the event

 Robert Jackson, Project Engineer – Fast + Epp


Robert graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor’s Degree of Applied Science in Civil Engineering. He is one of the structural design engineers for the UBC Brock Commons tall timber building, and has been intimately involved in the project since its inception. Robert comes from a carpentry background and is the recent recipient of two awards from the Institution of Structural Engineers in London. Most notably, The Young Structural Engineering Professional Award, which is known to showcase diverse and skilled individuals under 30 years old who are driving the profession forward.


October 18, 2016, three engineers from McElhanney, Mr. Raj Singh, Mr. Brook Robazza, and Mr. Fraser Peterson presented an Introduction to Bridge Engineering lunch and learn at the UBC Wayne and William White Engineering Design Center.  In the lecture, Mr. Singh and Mr. Robazza presented the pros and cons of various bridge design techniques used throughout the industry.

img_20161018_130137The lecture focused on key design decisions that are common in modern bridge design. Perhaps the most fascinating part about this lecture was hearing about how various design challenges are overcome through the use of different bridge design types and techniques. This included how different bridge designs uniquely distribute loads to their foundations, as well as the construction challenges associated with each different bridge design. To better educate the audience, Mr. Robazza spoke about his experiences working in India on the Arrah-Chapra Bridge. This helped to show the amount of planning that goes into the construction of these large structures.

The chapter would again like to thank Raj, Brook, and Fraser for taking time out of their busy days to give such a fascinating lecture.

Speakers for the event:           

Raj Singh, P.Eng, P.E. : Market Sector Lead for Bridges at McElhanney


After completing a masters in Civil Engineering at University of Massachusetts in 2001, Raj worked as a design engineer on long span bridges with URS’s center of technical excellence at Tampa, Florida.  Subsequently, he gained experience in design-build projects working with Buckland & Taylor with significant involvement in the land structures for the Golden Ears Bridge project. In 2008 he initiated Infinity Engineering; a specialty firm involved in the design and construction engineering of complex and long span bridges. In 2014, Infinity joined with McElhanney Consulting; a medium sized transportation engineering firm in Western Canada.  As the Division Manager, Raj now leads the bridge engineering group at McElhanney.


Brook Robazza, EIT: Bridge Engineer at McElhanney and current PhD Candidate at UBC


Brook completed his Masters of Applied Science in Earthquake and Structural Engineering at UBC in 2013 and began his PhD in the same year.  After joining McElhanney in 2015, Brook has worked on several important bridges including; the Nipigon Bridge, the first cable-stayed bridge in Ontario; the Lelu Island Suspension Bridge, what will be the longest LNG bridge in the world; and the Arrah-Chhapra Bridge over Ganges in India, the longest extradosed bridge in India.


RAM Engineering

On September 27, 2016, the UBC CSCE Student Chapter welcomed Joe Di Placito, P.Eng, PMP, and Ziad Boustany, P.Eng, PMP, to lead a technical presentation for our members on the South Fraser Perimeter Road project. Joe and Ziad are both UBC Civil Engineering Alumni, and have gone on to start the firm RAM Engineering.

Their firm has focused primarily on project and design management, however in current and future projects the company is shifting more towards engineering design projects. The goal of this presentation was to provide some insight in starting and growing a firm, which Joe and Ziad did by describing their personal experiences with RAM, as well as covering many technical aspects of the SFPR project.

The lunch and learn brought to light many of the challenges faced and innovative solutions employed in the design of the SFPR, and provided students invaluable real world engineering knowledge. The event had excellent attendance and was well received by the UBC society members. The Chapter would like to once again thank Joe Di Placito and Ziad Boustany for taking time to come to UBC and present for the chapter.