By: Jesse Champagne
Founded in Toronto in 1965, Smith + Andersen is a consulting engineering firm that is acknowledged and respected for providing engineering excellence to clients who value relationships, integrated innovative solutions, and professionalism. Over the years, the company has assembled a talented team of professional engineers, technologists, designers, CAD and BIM specialists, and LEED Accredited Professionals (AP), and provided professional knowledge, creative design, attentive service, the strategic know-how, and a dedication to professionalism at every stage of their involvement. Through it all, they have gained a reputation for promoting the highest standards of engineering excellence.
We recently had a phone interview with three integral members of the Smith + Andersen family. As the son of co-founder Ian Smith, Doug has always strived to embody the values of the firm. In his own words, he tries to “accommodate but not compromise.” He prides himself in helping architects, owners and developers achieve their desired result, and his relaxed working style makes, in Doug’s words, Smith + Andersen “a great place to enjoy work.” John Pascoa was one of the very first electrical employees and has been working in the industry since 1978. In 2006, John became a Vice-President of Electrical, and in 2009 he became an Associate Principal. Last but not least is Mladen Nikolic, an Associate and senior employee, who has been with the company since 2000 and is in charge of the mechanical building services.
We spoke at length with all three about what separates Smith + Andersen from their competitors. Their company motto is “We engineer confidence,” and it’s clear that they are dedicated to delivering the highest quality projects to their clients. In Doug’s own words, the goal of the company is “to be the engineering firm of choice. This is our mission statement.”
“We are keen on delivering a high functionality and a high usability to all our clients… Bringing in experienced [workers] and delivering high quality is something that is very important to us… I think that, no matter how big or small a job is, we try to deliver the same level of detail and high standards to all of our clients,” says Mladic.
Doug continued, “It’s a small industry, so we try to do the best job we can and give the best level of service.”
“In the first couple of years it was a challenge, because you have to sell your name and [prove] that you care capable of doing these things. Now, we are well respected by the largest electrical companies and construction companies out there, as well as a lot of building owners. We’re one of the engineers of choice and we’d like to continue that,” says John.
One of the reasons that Smith + Andersen have continuously delivered high levels of service is their dedication to customer service and quality control.
“Experienced engineers, with principals, are developing a lot of checklists and a lot of ways to track down the quality of the projects… It is very important to us to be capable of guiding people. Our office has a good mix of young people and experienced people, and we want to make sure that, when we deliver the job, it is of the highest quality… We do an internal review of jobs by engineers who haven’t been involved in that [specific project]. Sometimes we find that a fresh pair of eyes can see certain things that may not be so obvious to a person that is looking at the job on a daily basis,” says Mladin.
Smith + Andersen have embraced sustainability as a critical component in all projects and provide energy efficient designs to their clients. Their dedication and experience have allowed them to meet today’s challenges and provide holistic, sustainable designs in order to meet their clients’ sustainable building objectives.
“In our design approaches we always try to use sustainable and eco-friendly solutions. A lot of what ends up being used on a job site is driven by financial reasons, [but] we are proud as a company to have a lot of registered green projects. We have a department in the company that is devoted to supporting sustainable designs [and] we will always promote sustainable solutions… It is a very important part of our business philosophy,” says Mladin.
Another important aspect of the company’s business philosophy includes enabling their own employees to grow with the company.
“We really depend on the people that we have here to deliver the projects professionally and accurately, and that has been the key to our success. Our focus is on how to make the team better and letting people advance when they are ready, and not holding anyone back,” says Doug.
He continued, “By empowering the people that we have they take on greater responsibility for the projects that they are working on. We leave it to them. There have been documented cases where people have gone from co-op students all the way up to partner. We walk the walk.”
According to Mr. Nikolic, as an industry leader and innovator, one of the goals of Smith + Andersen is to “always face new and interesting projects and jobs.”
“The reality of our company is that we cover a wide portion of the market and we cover a wide variety of buildings, anything from retail, office-style buildings, institutions such as universities and colleges, sports centers such as hockey arenas and YMCAs. It’s a wide variety of jobs.”
One specific industry where the company has had a large amount of recent success is health care, especially within the last 5 years.
“The company has been very successful in the P3 projects that are going on right now. We did Niagara Health Hospital, and that led to Bridgepoint in Toronto and, most recently, the largest hospital of the P3 world, Humber River Regional Hospital [in north-central Toronto]. We are now looked at as leaders of the health care world. We’ve tried to diversify what we work on so that we don’t feel the ups and downs of the construction world that is typical [with other firms],” says Doug.
In an industry that continuously presents complex challenges, rarely are there simple solutions. That being said, Smith + Andersen believe that the decision to choose them for a job is undoubtedly simple. No matter the project, Smith + Andersen want their clients to take comfort in the fact that they have chosen the best firm for the job.