Alex Kelada has been with CIMA+ in Calgary as a mechanical engineer since 2020. Bringing with him a strong background in business development, he was offered the opportunity to build the mechanical group in the Calgary office. Rising to the challenge, Alex Kelada is now also helping to expand the Edmonton office. In this portrait, discover Alex Kelada’s career path and his vision of development in an era marked by collaboration and constantly evolving technologies.
What is your educational and professional background?
I studied mechanical engineering and graduated in 2006. Then I worked for Hemisphere Engineering for seven years and went to MPE Engineering where I did similar work to what I am doing currently, that is starting a mechanical buildings group. Seven years later, I moved to CIMA+, where I have been working for three years now. So, I have been in the consulting world since graduation.
Where did your passion for engineering come from, and more specifically in buildings?
I went into engineering to design aircraft. I originally wanted to be a pilot, but I could not pursue this path because of the eyesight requirements. So, I figured I would do the next best thing and design planes. But then, my brother being in the industry kind of pushed me towards the buildings world. And here I am!
How would you describe the Buildings sector at CIMA+ and what is its greatest strength?
CIMA+'s greatest strength is its ability to pull in resources across Canada to work on a project. We can count on a lot of experts for a variety of project types. Once you know who all those experts are, then you can reach out to those experts, bounce off ideas with them or invite them to collaborate with you. Canada has become way smaller in recent years, thanks to new technologies.
What is your vision for the Buildings sector in Alberta?
Right now, we have a strong group in Edmonton mechanically. In Calgary, I would like to build up the mechanical group to a similar size, around 20 people. In Alberta, my goal would be to integrate electrical and structural groups as well, also with about 20 people per discipline. I know it is going to take a lot of work to build up to that, but the development of the building’s group in Alberta is a long-term challenge that I am willing to address.
Which project at CIMA+ are you most proud of, and why?
It is a project that I was really proud of, but it did not end up getting used! [laughs] This project was a healthcare facility for private practice. It was the first large project that I took from start to finish. I was involved in all assets of design as well as construction administration. The facility had 6 operation rooms, mostly for orthopedic surgeries. After it was built, the company ended up going bankrupt because of the way Alberta health services were transitioning their surgical procedures. This one certainly presented a lot of challenges, mainly because the healthcare design world was new to me. But this whole project turned out to be a rich learning experience. Right now, I would say the most interesting project I am working on is the Quantum Research Lab. It is a new research facility in Calgary that will allow start-ups to rent clean rooms to pursue their own development as companies. This project represents a great opportunity for Calgary to grow in the market of nanotechnology and quantum research.
What would be your dream project?
My dream project would be one allowing me to be creative and not constrained by budgets. [laughs] This Quantum Lab, I find it to be quite interesting, not only because it is a great project overall, but mainly because it gives us the opportunity to implement new technologies that are not being used in other similar facilities. The concept in general of being on the cutting edge of technology, trying these technologies in my applications and trying new things that are not necessarily done in the standard design procedures, that is really motivating and rewarding for me.
What is your opinion about the evolution of technologies in the engineering field?
The engineering field is evolving at breakneck speed, and customer needs are also changing, keeping us perpetually on the lookout for optimum solutions. We must stay abreast of the latest developments and be eager to learn. We are constantly seeing new systems being implemented or designed that have a significant impact on comfort, energy consumption and the environment. For example, for the Quantum Lab project, we are looking at a new system for the clean room where we will continuously monitor the air quality and be able to ramp down the supply air fans accordingly. So, if the air quality is very clean, we can do some energy saving by ramping down the air changes. Because we are talking significant air changes, like 180 changes per hour for a space. For comparison, a typical office will have maybe 4 to 6 air changes per hour, so there is a huge potential for energy savings when labs are not being used.
Is sustainability a big part of your everyday practice when designing projects?
I always try to think about a project or a concept sustainably, but most times, budget gets into the equation. And for some projects, clients look into environmental aspects as a need to get their funding rather than a way to be greener or more sustainable. Of course, I prefer working for the clients that aim for sustainability, that include sustainability as an angle in their vision. But sometimes, this is not realistic because they are focused on the capital dollars, and they do not care about operational expenses. Those types of discussions and trying to convince them can be difficult, but it is our duty to do so.
What are your thoughts about the evolution of remote work and collaborative tools in the last few years?
Of course, it has its pros and cons. I think that it has helped and hurt the development in Calgary because rather than having the local staff or building a local group, I am seeking support from Edmonton and Vancouver. I am even working with Toronto right now. It has slowed the growth in Calgary, but nonetheless, it has found efficiencies within CIMA+. I certainly would like to walk down the hall, talk to a larger group of colleagues and work through things with them in person, but at the same time, using Teams has been beneficial for me. Since I started at CIMA+ during the pandemic, collaborative tools have really helped keeping me busy. When the pandemic occurred, work became slow across the board, so I was able to still work on some projects with other offices throughout the country.
Do you have any advice for the recruits joining CIMA+?
The advantage of being at CIMA+ is that there are different departments, different disciplines for which an engineer can work. So, be open, and try to grasp any opportunity to work with the variety of them. When you’re first starting out as an engineer, you do not necessarily know if you want to work in buildings or process or the energy sector, etc. If you get the chance to try them all, I encourage you to do so.