Experts in efficient design

DESJARDINS“We are very conscious of the sustainability, durability and energy efficiency of every building we design, because someone is going to operate that building, and they want low operating costs and high durability.” Jean Desjardins, President of Desjardins Expert Conseil.

Based in Laval, QC, Desjardins Expert Conseil is a multidisciplinary consulting engineering firm composed of 28 employees specializing in mechanical, electrical, civil (hydrology and infrastructure) engineering for the private sector. Though many of the residential, multi-residential, commercial and industrial buildings are acclaimed, Desjardins Expert Conseil prefers to let the work speak for itself.

And what it is saying is “efficiency and durability and low construction costs”, which is exactly what clients want to hear. Desjardins says that since Desjardins Expert Conseil works only in the private sector, delivering work on budget is a strict priority. “I have to be very conscious of the budget and very conscious of our designs,” he says. “We have to be very effective in our capacity to do value engineering when we are designing. When Desjardins Expert Conseil designs, we do so as if it were to build for ourselves. We are not there to spend money uselessly.”

Desjardins Expert Conseil is currently working on a high-end, 27-storey building right now amongst many other projects (the firm does approximately 100 projects a year). Though projects can be found throughout Quebec, they also have their licence to practice in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Desjardins says “My challenges are always the same. They don’t change; I want to keep the sustainability of the building high and the energy consumption low. We are always innovating in how we do this, but the challenges are always the same.”

Operation Costs Top of Mind
Energy efficiency is one of Desjardins Expert Conseil’s main specialities. Desjardins Expert Conseil work closely with clients and understand their operating costs need to be kept at a minimal. “The operator is going to be very mad if he or she finds out that the building is costing them a fortune to heat or to air condition,” says Desjardins. “When we design we have to be very conscious of the energy efficiency of the different systems that we will be implementing, so that the building is low maintenance and be has low operating costs for all electromechanical systems.”

Not only do Desjardins Expert Conseil clients get buildings that are energy efficient, but also buildings that are low in energy consumers, a major element to the team’s basis of design philosophy. “We are thinking of our client, but also thinking of the state of planet and our legacy for our future generations. So that is also a concern of mine and a concern of my staff,” says Desjardins.

LEED Accreditation
Approximately 20 per cent of Desjardins Expert Conseil buildings get LEED accreditation, and those that don’t get formal accreditation are still designed with the same goals in mind. “It is inherent in our thinking,” says Desjardins. “The building’s envelope is the main element in the design of the building to insure a high energy efficiency this means having a high thermal efficiency and impermeability to limit infiltration.” As such, the Desjardins Expert Conseil team advises architects on how to minimalize the thermal load in their buildings. For example, the orientation of the building and window selection is vital since windows comprise a minimum of 40 per cent of the envelopes composition.

“Their properties in terms of thermal conductivity and the solar heat gain coefficient are of great importance,” says Dejardins.

“As an engineer, I am conscious of the fact that if you work your envelope properly my heating and cooling considerations are going to considerably reduce gas emissions to the atmosphere as well as reducing the operating costs,” says Desjardins.

Technology and Material Innovation
Frequent research into new materials and technology keep the work and challenges very dynamic, says Desjardins. Lighting is often the second highest operating cost for a building, so the team has been learning about new LED lighting technology that will help reduce this cost.

“LED lighting now have dimming capabilities now, so it permits us to add controls into the lighting system where we are able, either through infra-red sensors, timers, photocell or dimmmers which further reduce energy consumption,” says Desjardins. In a public building, most of the common area lighting has to be on 24 hours a day, such as corridors, staircases, garages. “By integrating lighting controls it permits us to reduce energy consumption and increase their life span,” says Dejardins. “We are constantly innovating in terms of how we are able to control lighting with the manufacturers and distributors.”

Third Generation Engineers
It is safe to say Desjardins has been very conscious of energy efficiency, thermal loading, and operating costs for a long time. Desjardins’s father (Georges M. Desjardins) was also an engineer. Desjardins joined his firm, G.M. Desjardins & Associates, after graduating from the Université de Sherbrooke in 1987 with a degree in mechanical engineering. “He created a multi-service oriented engineering firm and offering mechanical, electrical, civil and structural engineering,” says Desjardins. “He was a great mentor to me and coached me into being multidisciplinary.”

At 42 years old Dejardins went back to school and fulfilled the requirement by the Order of engineers so that he could obtain the right to practice electrical engineering and civil engineering, which he completed in 2007. Desjardins is also proud to say his two sons, Samuel (22 years old) and Marc-Olivier (19 years old), will make this a third generation engineering family, with both sons currently completing their building engineering studies.

“Working with our team is a constant evolution, and I can tell you it is very dynamic,” says Desjardins. Since opening 17 years ago, Desjardins Expert Conseil has thrived to make sure that the employees are self-conscious of the working relationships between the team and its clients.

Desjardins says he enjoys the one-on-one consultation he experiences between his team and the developer, contractor or builder. The quality of service and the quality control of the work that Desjardins Expert Conseil offer is the foundation of the company’s established reputation as experts in their industry. Just like good design, building a good reputation cannot be rushed. “An element of confidence is very important between a professional and client,” says Desjardins. “This relationship is built over time. This confidence is also developed over time.”