Professional Down to Its Core

Levelton’s blueprint for success is based on its four core disciplines, and a people-focused approach to business

Whether or not you’ve heard their name, you’re sure to have seen their work. From Science World to the Port Mann Bridge to the Vancouver International Airport, Levelton Consultants Ltd. has been involved in most of the major construction projects in B.C. over the last several decades.

More specifically, Levelton has been involved in several of the province’s most challenging construction projects, both as a member of the project engineering team and working directly for the owners.

“We’re not a generalist—we don’t do everything for everybody,” explains president Nick Davis, P.Eng. “At Levelton, we solve specialized engineering and environmental challenges with our four core disciplines of Building Science, Geotechnical, Environmental and Materials.”

Founded by Bruce Levelton in 1966, the company has grown from a single practitioner to a mid-sized consulting firm with more than 200 employees. The majority of that growth has been through organic expansion, explains Davis, but the Levelton Group of Companies has acquired several specialty firms along the way to elevate its expertise. Now, with 10 offices throughout B.C. and Alberta, Levelton is just the right size—big enough to handle large projects, but small enough to stay focused on what it does best.

“Levelton’s Building Science Division offers a diverse range of services, from energy modelling to field compliance testing, from detailed design to research and development,” says group leader Guillaume Vadeboncoeur, P.Eng., LEED AP.

Discipline director for Building Science Alex McGowan, P.Eng., agrees: “We have always been strong in envelope remediation—diagnosing the problems and creating and implementing a solution—but what sets us apart from most of our competitors is our strength in energy-efficient design. Building codes now require compliance with energy standards, and some of our employees have been involved in the development of those standards. Our group incorporates these measures into our remediation projects, and helps architects understand and meet these new requirements for new construction.”

Vadeboncoeur points to the recent building envelope remediation of a health-care facility at Chilliwack Hospital. The 35-year-old building had a history of air and water leaks. “When we opened the walls, we discovered the steel framing of the building was no longer up to Canadian code,” Vadeboncoeur explains. “What really complicated the project was the fact that the facility needed to remain in operation during the construction, requiring strict infection-control procedures to safeguard the patients staying in the facility.” The finished building will likely see reduced utility bills, improved occupant comfort and a smaller carbon footprint.

The Geotechnical Division is often engaged to work on large construction projects. The company works with both public- and private-sector clients who propose to build on difficult—and sometimes seemingly impossible—sites. “A project could be anything from a complex structure on a steep slope, to large-scale commercial and industrial projects, such as the Tsawwassen Mills Shopping Mall,” explains Geotechnical Division manager Carl Miller, M.Sc., P.Eng.

The said 1.2-million-square-foot shopping centre will be built on Tsawwassen First Nations land near the BC Ferries terminal. “It’s a difficult area,” says Miller. “There were some challenges with the ground conditions in terms of potential settlement and its response to a large earthquake. Finding a solution to this challenge really brought out the best in our Geotechnical engineering team.”

“Our group was involved in some extensive subsurface studies to characterize the ground,” adds Miller. “We needed to provide the design team with the necessary information to control ground settlement, and enable construction to take place in the required time frame for development.”

The Geotechnical Division works with municipalities across the province to review and manage natural hazards—assessing the potential for landslides and rock falls. They also provide guidance for safe building locations and define the requirements to mitigate hazards where there is no choice in the location.
Levelton also conducts work for public-sector clients, such as the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Levelton’s expertise within the Environment Division has helped assess and manage a variety of environmental issues on major infrastructure projects throughout the province. The company’s portfolio includes participating on project teams such as the Golden Ears and Port Mann Bridges in the Lower Mainland; the ongoing George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project; the Sea-to-Sky Highway Corridor improvements; and Highway 1 upgrades throughout B.C.

“We use advanced computer modelling to determine the potential environmental impacts of a project, such as air quality or the risk of soils and groundwater contamination,” explains Environment Division manager Ana Booth, M.Sc., Ph.D. “We can also provide field monitoring, develop mitigation measures as needed and support those measures throughout the project life cycle.”

The Materials Division is also involved in many of B.C.’s largest and most challenging infrastructure projects. “‘Materials’ refers to anything that we use for construction, from metals to ceramics to polymers,” explains Materials group leader John Davidson, P.Eng.

Levelton’s Materials Division works extensively in quality assurance and as materials specifiers. This department might be responsible for checking the weld quality of steel fabrication for a bridge, or the nature of the asphalt or concrete used on an airport runway. With expertise in distressed materials, Levelton can also help clients select the right materials for new construction, or mitigate corrosion or damage in a distressed or aged facility in order to extend its service life.

“Our projects and expertise relate extremely well to structures and waterworks,” says Davidson. “We have a long history working on projects such as the Golden Ears, the Port Mann and the Alex Fraser.”

Davidson points out that many of the materials used in Canadian bridges actually come from abroad, and Levelton’s role as “code consultant” on bridges such as the Walterdale bridge in Edmonton currently being fabricated in Korea, is one of great responsibility. “Essentially, we bridge the gap—pardon the pun—between international products and Canadian standards, to help make sure the construction conforms to Canadian bridge criteria.”

The Materials Group’s most recent, finished project is the kilometre-long, steel truss and cable stay Deh Cho Bridge in Fort Providence, Northwest Territories. It’s the first permanent crossing over the Mackenzie River, previously only navigable by ferry in the summer or by ice road in the winter.

President Nick Davis notes that the Materials Division actually does a considerable amount of international work, helping to deliver steel fabrication. In just the past 18 months, Levelton has provided services in Panama, Cuba, Ethiopia and Mexico, in addition to Korea. “We don’t market internationally, but our expertise has earned us quite a reputation.”

While its expertise may be world-class, Levelton is firmly rooted here in B.C. and Alberta. “We’re very people-focused, and committed to the level of service we provide,” says Davis. “We are a ‘Western Canadian market’ company and we place a high value on the personal relationships that have developed between our employees and our clients.”