Amir Abd El Halim, Managing Principal, Stantec Waterloo (Q&A)
WATCH Stantec has come full circle in its relationship with the R+T Park - first involved in the initial planning of the park, now a tenant. Can you reflect on this longstanding relationship?
Amir: Stantec was involved in the original design, engineering, and services such as landscape architecture, stormwater management and low impact development of the David Johnston Research + Technology Park when it was still in the design and planning stages. Many of the talented people who worked on that project years ago, now call the R+T Park home. I think that is one of the most amazing things about the work we do here at Stantec. We get to live, work and play in the communities we design and serve – this tech park is a great example of that. Our Stantec staff, who may have done the initial surveying, who saw the tech park concepts on paper or in a drawing, are able to be a part of it now that it has come to life.
With respect to research collaboration, the University of Waterloo is home to the Centre of Pavements and Transportation Technology, one of the top pavement research programs in North America. Stantec actually acquired expertise coming out of the University years ago, and as a result, we are also recognized across North America for our pavement management and engineering expertise.
WATCH University of Waterloo offers a rich resource to industry - how does Stantec take advantage of its proximity to this world-class academic institution?
Amir: We are lucky to be so close to the University of Waterloo. I really think it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The University provides us with easy access to a large centre of innovation, research and talent. It allows our staff to keep up to date with the latest in research, technology, and the state of the practice. The University of Waterloo also benefits as Stantec has provided and continues to invest in the University with grants, and donations. Our staff also volunteer their time – and our new proximity makes this easier to do. I can literally look outside of my office and can see the campus -- it is that close! Many of our staff at the Waterloo office are University of Waterloo grads. We employ engineers, environmental Scientists, architects, hydrogeologists, planners, GIS analysts and so forth. A number of Stantec staff have also completed graduate degrees at the University while working full time at Stantec – myself included, I did my PhD at University of Waterloo while working full time. The fact that we’re so close now makes this so much more convenient. They can walk to class!
WATCH Stantec is involved in one of the most exciting recent developments in the Park - the creation of evolv1, Canada’s first net positive commercial office building. Can you speak to this collaborative effort with Sustainable Waterloo, Cora Group, the R+T Park and the impact of this development locally, nationally and on the world stage? How much are we (Stantec) pushing the envelope on this project?
Amir: evolv1 is a first of its kind project. It provides Stantec and our staff with the opportunity to showcase the depth of our buildings, environmental, sustainability and resiliency practices. We worked collaboratively with the Sustainable Waterloo Region and the Cora Group to prepare a feasibility study that determined the commercial viability of a net positive building. The building will have a lot of innovation and cool technologies such as geothermal wells, an open well system, variable refrigerant flow heat pumps for heating and cooling, a green wall in the atrium, roof top solar and parking lot solar. It allows us to bring a fully inter-disciplined team of mechanical, power, geothermal and solar professionals. These Stantec professionals are pushing the bounds of technology and engineering, while working on this project out of our Waterloo office which is literally a stone’s throw from the evolv1 project site. We are confident the experiences gained on this project can be taken to any other site in North America.
WATCH You are new in your role as Stantec Waterloo Office Leader - what excites you about the role, and what are your goals for the organization?
Amir: My goals are to continue to stay engaged in our community and with our clients and to work with and empower our staff to innovate and collaborate on projects across Waterloo Region and North America. We’d like to continue to recruit and hire the best people in industry, work on challenging and complex projects, and continue to make Stantec the top engineering and architectural consulting firm in the Region.
WATCH How are Stantec employees enjoying “life in the park?”
Amir: It’s been great. Our staff love the park and the proximity to the Universities. They really enjoy the free, abundant parking. They enjoy the food trucks and walk the trails at lunch time. We have quite a number of staff who have signed up to play beach volleyball this summer. Stantec recently purchased a fleet of really cool orange bikes so our staff can quickly get around the park for meetings.
We’re even learning to navigate the geese - during spring egg laying season that can be quite an adventure! We’re also really excited to see the plan for more amenities in the park. We’ll soon hopefully have a pub and/or restaurant nearby, and the LRT stop will literally be close to our doorstep. I know a number of our employees who are planning to take the LRT rather that drive to work.