Jablonsky, Ast & Partners: Providing design and site services for structural projects
By: Jesse Champagne
Originally established in 1955, Jablonsky, Ast & Partners offers optimum structural engineering services for virtually all types of buildings, such as residential, commercial, institutional, low rise and multi-story towers. Beginning with conceptual/schematic drawings, Jablonsky, Ast & Partners offers a total package of structural design services, as well as structural investigation services, including forensics analysis of existing structures and building rehabilitation projects including parking garages, balcony repair and legal investigations.
Paul Ast, the Principal Partner and Chief Engineer, joined the company in 1972 and eventually became a partner in 1982. Born in the Czechoslovakia, he graduated from the University of Prague in 1965 and achieved a Masters of Applied Science from the University of Toronto in 1972. Along with being a member of the Professional Engineers of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Paul has produced many paper publications and has had a significant impact on the skyline of Toronto
Reflecting back on his time with the company, Paul is constantly astounded by the advancements of technology.
“[When I first started] we did not even have calculators. Those were the dark days of structural design where everything had to be done in your head. Now everyone uses computers and we’re all more stupid for it I guess. [Laughs]. We have unbelievable software for analyzing everything from overall analysis of buildings, dynamic analysis, and complex design of the various structural elements. That’s why I would say the productivity of engineers in this environment has been unbelievably enhanced.”
As a partner in one of Toronto’s largest structural engineering firms, Paul relishes the role of the firm as a major provider of structural design for developers, both in the city and across Canada.
“We are one of the companies that [does] an enormous amount of the residential development, condo development, and rental development in Toronto. As well, we have done numerous outstanding commercial buildings. We have done so many shopping centers I would challenge anybody who would [claim to] have a bigger portfolio in shopping centers [than us]. We have done huge shopping centers in cities like Winnipeg Montreal, and in Toronto, etc. We did some health facilities and we do an enormous amount of long-term care facilities.”
Born in Prague, Paul has noticed a clear dissimilarity between Canadian and international markets. The difference, he says, is the workload and the cost of doing business.
“When you are designing away from the North American environment you are required [to produce] substantially more design work and produce more drawings, which are totally unnecessary in Canadian environments. But at the same time the fees are about 4x as big as in this country, so you will be compensated for [your extra work]. But at the same time it is very difficult to get your payments for your fees outside of the country, so I would say that we haven’t been engaged too much outside of the country. We had a few projects [outside of the country]. One was in Prague, my hometown.”
Rather than spending time on the international market, Jablonsky, Ast & Partners works primarily in Canada, especially Toronto. The reason? Paul wants a strong, focused company.
“If you keep on expanding you will eventually lose track of what you are doing. I would like to have it concentrated here in one spot and make sure that what we do, we do well and we fulfill our plans. Better [that] than to expand from one town to another and another and then eventually completely lose control of what you’re doing.”
That being said, Paul is thankful for Canada’s relaxed immigration policy. Without it, he wouldn’t have the skilled labor necessary to maintain such an effective company.
“For some reason Canadian kids don’t like engineering. But we are blessed by the fact that we have plenty of immigration coming here from the Far East such as China, Pakistan, or India, and they are qualified people with excellent backgrounds in engineering and drafting and what have you. We have been replenishing our need for skilled labor solely on immigrants coming to this country… [Our growth] is propagated by the huge influx of foreign immigrants to this town.”
In a major city like Toronto, it is important to stay one step ahead of the game. How does he do that? It’s simple, “you keep a tab on what you are doing and make sure you are staying on top of it.”
This no-nonsense approach seems to have served him well. But, looking to the future, how does Jablonsky, Ast & Partners bring in new clients?
“We are an established company and people come to us themselves. We have a very good website in which we list all the projects we have done. We have a personal contract with our clients from time to time. We take them to lunch and we play golf. [Laughs] Word of mouth is the best advertisement.”
Jablonsky, Ast& Partners strive to achieve excellent service and provide optimal solutions to structure of buildings based on their vast experience in design. With nearly 60 years of experience satisfying customers across Canada, they are one of the best in the business when it comes to providing workable and cost effective solutions to problems related to structural design.