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spring/summer 2004

Faculty of Applied ScienceNews Civil Engineering Engineering News at The University of British Columbia

Contents • Message from the Head • Engineers Without

Civil Design Studio for undergrads: the Way Ahead

Borders help locally and globally

The departure of the earthquake research equipment from the Civil Engineering building to the new Earthquake Engineering Research Facility has given • Turning waste into the department a great opportunity to recreate profit: Research its teaching and learning spaces. As part of the onadapted world-wide for going effort to keep our curriculum as dynamic and waste treatment relevant as possible, and in response to an • People • Seizing the Opportunity industry-wide demand for civil engineers with design • Polygon Homes, Genest skills, the department has decided to use this space to create a design studio for undergraduate students. family and friends The Civil Engineering Design Studio is part of the remember Rick Genest • Events & Achievements Faculty of Applied Science and the Department of Civil Engineering’s strategy to increase project-based learning. Project-based curricula allow our students to integrate technical education received through classroom instruction with real-world problem solving activities. Working in teams to solve design problems, students learn team-building and communications skills that will aid them in their future careers. The design studio will give students the space to work together in small groups or large ones in an environment that aids collaboration in design. Just as in industry, students will be able to meet and work with peers and professionals on projects, and through this gain a sense of a real-world working environment. The proposed two-tiered design provides 17 separate meeting areas for students, as well as a larger conference room and an assembly area for presentations. This space will be an essential component to Civil Engineering education at UBC, allowing us not only • A view from

the marketplace

Artist’s rendering of the new Civil Design Studio

to provide the most up-to-date and relevant education, but also to provide state-of-the-art facilities for our students to support our innovative curriculum. Project-based learning and skills in design, facilitated through this infrastructure enhancement, will make our civil engineers more employable and better able to make significant contributions to industry after they graduate. It will also help keep UBC s Civil Engineering department within the top-tier of civil engineering education in Canada. The department is seeking help to fund this outstanding initiative in civil engineering education. If you are interested in being a part of the future of civil engineering education, please contact the Faculty Development Office at 604-822-8335 or development@apsc.ubc.ca

Message from the Head


1.4 first choice applicants for every seat available. The heightened interest in civil engineering comes at a time when the Department is working hard to reinvigorate the undergraduate learning experience. Elsewhere in this issue, the proposed Civil Engineering Design Studio is described as a much needed project team working space. We are also taking a fresh look at ways of updating and reorganizing our geotechnical and hydrotechnical laboratories to make the undergraduate laboratory experience more interesting and informative. Even the Civil Loft will soon sport a newly renovated look, thanks largely to the efforts of the Civil Club. It is indeed a good time for undergraduates in civil engineering!!

Demand Ratio

Program Quota


If this is a good time to be graduating from a Civil Engineering degree program (and indeed it is), it is also a good time to be a civil engineering academic department. The strong employment market for civil engineering graduates in British Columbia has not gone unnoticed by high school and first year engineering students. In fact, the demand for enrolment in our undergraduate degree program has strengthened considerably in the past two academic years. Entry to the BASc program in Civil Engineering is via a quota system, and as the accompanying figure indicates, the program quota has declined slightly over the last seven years to its present level of 91. At the same time, the number of 1st year UBC engineering students making civil engi1.60 neering their first choice has 1.40 fluctuated widely. The good 1.20 news is that the demand for 1.00 0.80 seats in the civil engineering 0.60 undergraduate program is Quota 0.40 Demand Ratio higher now than that at any 0.20 0.00 other time over the last nine 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 Entering Year years. In 2003, there were

80 60 40 20 0 95


Dr. Eric Hall, Department Head

Engineers Without Borders help locally and globally By Charlie Harrison

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a university based non-government organization that focuses on sustainable development in the developing world. The UBC chapter of EWB is also working close to home, by assisting Habitat for Humanity with its local project to build lowincome housing. The civil engineering students involved with the program serve as an important resource to meet the varied needs of the housing development project. The UBC chapter has also developed an outreach From left: Students Katy Galvin, CIVL; Oliver Mills, program to inform high school CIVL exchange; Eric Redmond, CIVL; Danny students about problems in Higginson, IGEN; and Harish Rausinghani, ENGP the developing world and the display the sand filter used in the high-school role of engineers in addressing

them. At a recent session, civil engineering students taught secondary school students how to build a sand filter for water treatment in developing countries. Oliver Mills, a civil exchange student from the U.K., led the program, with assistance from several other civil engineering undergraduates, including third-year Eric Redmond and fourth-year Katy Galvin. Ian Randall, a 2002 Civil Engineering graduate, has been overseas working on water sanitation projects. Immediately after graduation, he embarked on an internship to Cameroon and showcased his work at the 2004 EWB National Conference. Ian said he was challenged every day and would definitely go again, given the opportunity. Involvement with EWB allows civil engineering undergraduates to enhance the skills that are not easily honed in a classroom setting. Communication skills, derived from working with students from other departments and faculties, and the opportunity to work on large-scale, hands-on projects, prepare students well for work in industry.

outreach program.


A view from

the marketplace Environmental Engineering Opportunities Abound By Civil Alumnus Rick Corbett, MASc, P.Eng., Vice President of Environmental Engineering, Associated Engineering Ltd., a Canada-wide consulting engineering firm. Opportunities for environmental engineering graduates are greater than ever — the reason is water. Virtually every day, the news refers to the global water situation — polluted drinking water supplies, water shortage, water conservation. The reference may be to the chronic problem of the supply of potable water in impoverished areas of the world or the impacts of climatic change in our own backyard. Regardless of the specifics, environmental engineers have played, and will continue to play, a significant role in tackling the issue of water management around the world. Environmental engineers currently face three general challenges surrounding the issue of water management: technology, integration and sustainability. We have seen unprecedented innovations in treatment technologies over the last few years including the advances of membrane separation technology; ballasted flocculation; ultraviolet disinfection; and biological nutrient removal, with UBC playing a major role in developing this wastewater treatment tech-

nology. This pace of development will likely continue unabated in the coming years, as the need for technology “tools” is driven by our need for better and more cost-effective solutions. Environmental engineers will continue to drive the development of these technologies. The water management challenge is also bringing out the need for better integration of environmental solutions. How we manage our water is no longer separate from our stormwater management and wastewater treatment decisions. We are now looking at water reuse using treated effluent, even on our rainy west coast. We make decisions on urban water supply, cognisant of the need to retain sufficient water in watercourses to support aquatic life. Managing stormwater, ensuring the continued recharge of the groundwater and safeguarding watersheds are now part of the environmental engineer’s toolkit. Integration of environmental solutions calls for a multidiscipline approach. To the environmental engineer, it means having a broad knowledge of the environmental disciplines in order to work with other professionals to develop appropriate solutions. Sustainability has become one of the key mantras of environmental engineering planning. 3

We can no longer look at just the life-cycle costs in our decision-making. We also need to consider the environmental and social impacts of proposed solutions. Sustainable development analysis is an evolving approach for evaluating the long-term effects of our actions. Sustainability balances economic, environmental and social concerns — a holistic approach — to develop solutions that best fit the overall need of the community. An example is the challenge of our aging linear civil infrastructure systems. In evaluating the solutions, we are now considering the disruption and indirect costs to businesses and to the public in digging up streets in the urban core, leading us to develop alternative solutions with underground pipelines remediated in-place. We also look at true cost accounting so that we can fund our investment in our civil infrastructure in a sustainable manner. The traditional role of the environmental engineer thus blends with that of economist and accountant. Where does this leave the environmental engineer entering the profession? — with ample opportunity. Whether it is in consulting, technology development, utility management or government, the industry is

CIVL alumnus J. Richard E. Corbett

looking for environmental engineers who can provide the requisite combination of skills. While a solid base in traditional environmental engineering education is mandatory, the environmental engineer of the next decade will be well versed in a broad array of subjects including environmental science, economics and decision-making theory. The most critical area will be in communication. Environmental engineering decisions are no longer made in the engineering office; they are made in the public forum. The environmental engineer of the next decade will be skilled in preparing reports presenting complex environmental and engineering issues in a clear, concise manner and will be equally skilled in communication with peers, the public and the political decision makers.

Turning waste into profit: Research adapted world-wide for waste treatment At the south end of campus, just behind the sprawling B.C. Research complex, sits a humble looking pair of research trailers, operated by the Pollution Control and Waste Management (PCWM) group. These wastewater treatment trailers are at the core of the Civil Engineering Department’s universally recognized “Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) Pilot Plant” research facilities. For over 20 years, a small percent of UBC’s domestic sewage has been pumped through these facilities, targeting carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus removal. This small-scale pilot-plant was built in 1985 (with the funding provided by NSERC) under the direction of Dr. Don Mavinic, group leader, and Dr. Bill Oldham (Professor Emeritus in Civil Engineering) and represents one of only two such facilities in Canada.

Research program leader Dr. Don Mavinic shows recovered

Until recently, the BNR facility concentrated on mainstream, liquid waste treatment, using naturally occurring bacteria to remove carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as the processing and management of the subsequent biomass residuals, known as “sludge”. Over the last 3–4 years, a major retrofit of the pilot plant facility has included the addition of a parallel process line, using a relatively new (to the waste treatment industry) concept, known as a “membrane bioreactor”. Membrane enhanced phosphorus removal (MEBPR) processes show great promise in both producing an almost phosphate-free effluent, as well as replacing final settling tanks in conventional BNR processes. This new research effort is being directed by Dr. Eric Hall and Dr. Pierre Berube, and is funded, in part, by an NSERC Strategic Grant. Regardless of the waste treatment technique used at the BNR pilot plant, general interest in the ultimate fate of nitrogen and phosphorus in the sludge residues and liquid return streams has influenced a change in emphasis in the UBC work. Since 1999, the primary focus has turned to

phosphorus pellets


the recovery and beneficial reuse of the removed phosphates, as part of “new” research effort in the general category of “resource recovery”; in the not too distant future, this will also include the recovery of carbon and energy, in addition to the nutrients. “We look at waste as a significant resource”, says Don Mavinic. "If you look at it constructively, it contains useful end products and we call it “integrated environmental technology.” One such useful end product from the BNR facility is recovered phosphorus and nitrogen in the form of magnesium ammonium phosphate (MAP), also known as “struvite” in the waste treatment business. This struvite has traditionally been viewed as a very expensive “nuisance” by waste treatment plant operators, since it can readily crystallize in-situ (especially in treatment plants that practice BNR technology and anaerobic sludge digestion), thereby plugging piping systems, pumps, valves, etc. Under these circumstances, considerable cleaning and maintenance dollars must be spent, to keep the sewage flowing inside different parts of the plant.

By removing the struviteforming chemicals from the various sludge treatment liquid streams and recovering it as a MAP crystal, a valuable, natural fertilizer can be harvested for reuse elsewhere. To that end, and starting in 1999, the PCWM group has been developing a proprietary technology to remove and recover struvite in an upflow fluidized-bed “crystal reactor” system. This research started at the bench-scale, progressed to small pilot plant level and is now being further developed and tested in scaled up pilot facilities at two B.C. municipal sewage treatment plants — the Penticton Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility and GVRD’s Lulu Island Secondary Treatment Plant. Initial seed funding for this research effort came from B.C. Hydro, whose sponsorship was instrumental in launching this fertilizer recovery work. B.C. Hydro currently spends in excess of $1.2 Million purchasing commercial phosphates for re-enriching dam-created reservoirs, such as Kootenay and Arrow Lakes, where a process called “cultural oligotrophication” has led to the collapse of a significant fisheries resource (e.g. trout and kokanee). Through deliberate addition of nutrients to these reservoirs, lakes and streams, fish resources are showing a significant comeback.

However, B.C. Hydro is looking for alternate nutrient sources, that are both economical, environmentally friendly and sustainable. The removal and harvesting of struvite crystal pellets from liquid wastes, appear to offer an appealing solution to this problem. Although the research to date has focused on struvite production from domestic sewage, the potential “harvest” of product from agricultural waste (e.g. dairy and swine) is even larger and possibly more profitable. At the insistence of Mr. Fred Koch, Research Associate and BNR Plant Manager and Dr. Ken Ashley, Senior Provincial Fisheries Scientist (and PCWM grad), the PCWM group has recently moved into the arena of treating dairy cattle wastewater and adapted the “crystallization” technology to this type of waste. The initial 3 year study is being directed by Dr. Victor Lo and Dr. Mavinic, in cooperation with the Agricultural Research Farm in Agassiz, B.C. The main funding for this work comes via an NSERC Strategic Grant, awarded to Professors Lo and Mavinic. The private consulting sector has also shown great interest in this new research effort— since 1999, both Stantec Consultants Ltd. and Dayton & Knight Ltd. have provided financial and in-kind support to the PCWM group.


Graduate student Parvez Fattah (left) and Research Associate Fred Koch harvesting struvite from pilot-scale crystallizer

Similarly, GVRD and the City of Penticton have provided significant resources (both financial and manpower) to the UBC-led research program. Recently, and with the help of Dr. Bill Oldham and Dr. Bob Dawson (VP, Stantec Consultants) a number of other Western Canadian cities have tentatively agreed to install the UBC struvite recovery technology in their respective treatment plants, over the next 2 years — these include Saskatoon (2004), Regina and Lethbridge (2005), Calgary and Edmonton (2006). “We have developed a research and knowledge base at the BNR facility that no one else in the world has at this scale”, says Mavinic, “and our group intends to remain in the forefront of sustainable, environmental technology, that is both practical and cost effective,

in the treatment of wastes. Municipalities from the European Union to Australia to the People’s Republic of China have now adapted UBC-generated, nutrient removal technology to treat their wastewaters.” Long overdue recognition for this important UBC research facility has recently come via back-to-back (2003 and 2004) nominations for the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, the environmental equivalent of the Nobel Prize that honours outstanding achievements in the protection of the world’s water resources. While the main prize has so far eluded the PCWM group, they were amongst a very distinguished and world-class group of nominees in the environmental business. Perhaps 2005?


Meet the faces of Civil Engineering at UBC

Dr. Terje Haukaas joined the department as Assistant Professor in August 2003. A native of Norway with a background in carpentry and a degree in structural engineering from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Terje earned his MS and PhD degrees at the University of California, Berkeley. At UC Berkeley Terje performed research in the field of structural reliability. He developed strategies to address

challenges in inelastic finite element reliability analysis. He also derived unified finite element response sensitivity equations for inelastic problems with respect to material properties, nodal coordinates, cross-sectional geometry and loading. Terje is the creator of the finite element reliability and sensitivity module of the software framework “OpenSees” used by the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center. Terje’s research at UBC is concerned with probabilistic

methods in civil engineering, with focus on structural safety. He is developing methods to account for uncertainties in numerical prediction of structural behavior including parameter sensitivity and the development of probabilistic design guidelines. An important aspect of his research is the coupling of advanced computational methods with experimental testing at UBC’s Earthquake Engineering Research Facility.

Dr. Subrata Chakrabarti began teaching in CIVL in 1985 and has taught a variety of structural engineering courses including Shell Structures, Advanced Concrete Design, Advanced Structural Analysis and Advanced Concrete Design. After completing his PhD at the University of Roorkee, India, Subrata came to Canada to pursue post-doctoral work in the field of finite element analysis at the University of

Calgary. He has worked as a Senior Structural Engineer with Morrison Hershfield; PBK Engineering Ltd.; Bogue Babicki and Associates; and Jan Bobrowski and Partners in Calgary and London, England. Subrata also spent a year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as a Technical Manager for a large resort development. Some of the significant projects Subrata has been involved with include the multi-

storey parkade at Vancouver International Airport, BC Place Stadium, Robson Court and the Law Courts, 1500 West Georgia Street, Saskatoon Place Arena, Kamloops Riverside Coliseum and VIA Rail Maintenance Centre. His work on the pedestrian overpass at McBride and 7th in New Westminster won the CISC Award for the best structural design in British Columbia in 2001.

Dr. Reidar Zapf-Gilje has been an Adjunct Professor in environmental engineering since 1995, teaching contaminated site investigation/ remediation and human health and ecological risk assessment. He has also been involved with the creation and teaching of environmental programs at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and Kwantlen University College. A native of Norway, Reidar received his BEng in

civil engineering from McGill University and his master’s and doctorate degrees from UBC in environmental engineering. He has over 20 years consulting experience in environmental assessments, remediation and management. He has directed and managed several contaminated soil, groundwater and sediment projects from initial investigation to implementation of remediation and/or risk management solutions.

Reidar is the current Chair of the Roster of Contaminated Site Experts (RCSE) in British Columbia and is responsible for the development of a new and expanded system for the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection (WLAP). The RSCE was created to review and recommend approval of contaminated site investigation and remediation projects on behalf of the WLAP.

Alessandro Monti obtained his Laurea (MASc degree) in Environmental Engineering from the Polytechnic of Milan in 1999. He then joined the engineering department of the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (EAWAG). At EAWAG, he conducted his master’s thesis research on an innovative nitrogen removal

process while working as a research assistant to Hansruedi Siegrist. Alessandro moved to Canada to pursue his PhD at UBC in Environmental Engineering under the supervision of Professor Eric Hall. His research is a comparative fundamental study of conventional and membrane technologies for biological

nutrient removal from municipal wastewater. Through the monitoring of the process performance, kinetics batch studies and revolutionary molecular biology techniques, he aims to shed light on the fundamental differences between the membrane and conventional processes using the UBC Wastewater Treatment Pilot Plant.


Seizing the Opportunity Civil Engineering Co-op student Poul Rosen utilizes experience to change careers As a third year chemistry student at the University of Victoria, Poul Rosen realized that he should have studied engineering. After graduating from UVic and working for a couple of years as a chemist, he decided it was time for a career change and after a great deal of research and reflection, determined that civil engineering most interested him. He wanted to design and build the objects that he visualized. His first work-term was with Associated Engineering, where he worked mostly in the bridge engineering group, but also spent time surveying, drafting and inspecting. The experience

gave him a taste of many different types of engineering from structural to municipal. This year he is employed at Urban Systems Ltd. in Richmond for an eightmonth work-term and is enjoying every minute of it! His first project was a detailed design of an urban road in Collingwood Village near the Joyce Street Skytrain station. Upon a recent visit to the site during construction, he found it quite rewarding to see his first design project coming to life. His second major project was the detailed design of a new college campus in Quesnel, involving the design of two short roads

and a 100-stall parking lot. He also designed the 250 mm diameter water main and sanitary sewer for the site. The campus project was aiming at Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and therefore involved incorporating sustainable design elements such as using drywalls and infiltration basins to manage on-site storm water. “This campus project was an excellent learning experience for me since I was able to do detailed design work in virtually all areas of municipal engineering,” said Poul. Other projects that Poul is working on include the detailed design of an

Poul Rosen (left) with supervisor Glen Skhurhan review engineering plans.

upgrade to a small section of Gaglardi Way, the main road to Simon Fraser University, as well as an upgrade of a sewage pumping station in North Surrey, which involves pump selection and upstream gravity main capacity calculations. “Through the Co-op work terms, I have had the opportunity to acquire experience, reinforcing my decision to become a civil engineer,” said Poul. “I believe it is the right career choice and I haven’t looked back since.”

Polygon Homes, Genest family and friends remember Rick Genest Three years ago, the Department of Civil Engineering was the recipient of a generous gift from Polygon Homes and Forintek Canada, which established the Polygon Adjunct Professorship in Building Science (see Civil newsletter Spring 2001), providing resources for the department and the School of Architecture to offer courses and conduct research in building envelope science. Building envelopes provide the thermal barrier between

the indoor and outdoor environment. Civil Engineering worked closely with Rick Genest, former Executive Vice President of Polygon and UBC alumnus, who drove forward this initiative through his commitment to research into new building technologies. Sadly, Rick Genest was killed in a tragic accident in August 2002. As a tribute to Rick’s contribution to research and developments in the building science area, as well as to his renowned passion for


athletics, family and friends of Rick decided to establish an award in his name. The Richard Genest Memorial Service Award in Building Science is designated for undergraduate students who have demonstrated interest in the building science envelope and have participated in university or community athletics. In promoting student excellence in building science as well as promoting activity in athletics, this award is an excellent tribute to Rick Genest’s work and life, and

leaves a fitting and apt legacy to the students of UBC. On behalf of all of us in Civil Engineering, we would like to extend our thanks to Rick Genest’s family and friends for this very generous gift to students. If you would like to contribute toward this award, please contact the Development Office at 604-822-8335 or development@apsc.ubc.ca

Events & Achievements Frank Navin Retirement June 30, 2003 marked the retirement of Dr. Frank Navin from the Department of Civil Engineering. His many outstanding contributions to the department and the profession were honoured at a reception held on June 25, 2003, and he is frequently seen in the department due to his new role as Professor Emeritus. Bob Sexsmith Honoured Dr. Robert Sexsmith was the guest of honour at a reception held on September 8, 2003 to recognize his retirement from the department following a year of service as Acting Head. Bob has settled nicely into his next career as Professor Emeritus and world traveller, with some time set aside for the completion of the construction of his cabin in the Chilcotin.

from the CFI. In recognition of the occasion, awardees received plaques presented by ex-UBC President David Strangway, then President and CEO of CFI, and certificates of congratulation from the federal government, presented by Stephen Owen, M.P. for Vancouver Quadra. Dr. Carlos Ventura has been recognized with an invitation to join the CFI New Opportunities Fund College of Reviewers. Dr. Frank Navin enjoying the proceedings on the occasion of his retirement.

Dr. Nemy Banthia was chosen as the recipient of the 2003 Science Council of British Columbia “Solutions Through Research” award. The award was publicly announced in September and was presented at the 2003 Innovation and Science Council Awards Dinner on November 3rd. Dr. Banthia has also been elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering. The outstanding teaching contributions of Dr. Helmut Prion have been recognized once again, this time through the APEGBC Teaching Award for Excellence in Engineering and GeoScience Education.

Dr. Bob Sexsmith contemplating the many possible uses of his retirement gift.

Dr. Dharma Wijewickreme and Dr. Bernard Laval were guests of UBC and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) on November 14, at an event honouring recipients of New Opportunities Fund grants

Dr. Jonathan Fannin has been announced as one of two 2003-2004 Killam Teaching Prize winners in the Faculty of Applied Science. This recognition marks his second such award, as his teaching prowess was previously recognized by a Killam Teaching Prize in the Faculty of Forestry. The Civil Club has announced that its choices for top undergraduate professors for 2003-2004 were Dr. Reza Vaziri for 2nd year, Dr. Rob Millar for 3rd year and Dr. Perry Adebar for 4th year. Dr. Tarek Sayed has been given the designation Distinguished Junior Scholar by the office of the President of the University of British Columbia, in recognition of his significant research contributions to the transportation engineering profession.

civil@ubc is published by the Department of Civil Engineering in The Faculty of Applied Science at The University of British Columbia.

Production Contributors: Dr. Eric Hall, Department Head Ms. Clare Quirk, Administrative Assistant Ms. ErinRose Handy, Communications Officer, Dean’s Office

The Department of Civil Engineering For further information about the Department of Civil Engineering and its programs, contact us at: Department of Civil Engineering CEME Building, Room 2010 2324 Main Mall Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4 Tel: 604.822.2637 www.civil.ubc.ca


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Civil Engineering newsletter 2004


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