Friday, July 24, 2009

Chair Chat

In looking at past issues of the Civilian, I realized that we have not officially
welcomed the Mining, Geological, and Mineral alumni to the Department!

In 2006, the Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program (formerly Mining/Geological Engineering) was brought under the administrative umbrella of Civil Engineering.

While the Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program retains its unique identity, the move resulted in several benefits to both programs. Mining and Civil engineering were
two of the three original engineering diplomas offered by SPS in the 1880s (the third was Mechanical), and it is wonderful to see our cooperative history flourish to this day. So, on behalf of the Department of Civil Engineering, we welcome all the MIN/GEO alumni!

Since our last issue of the Civilian, I’ve met several hundred CIV/GEO/MIN alumni in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver.

Our very first Alumni Dinner was attended by over 100 alumni and we expect the numbers to grow for next year’s event (February 26th, 2010).

Remarkably, this year we are offering our 90th year of survey camp! We’re celebrating with a birthday bash at Gull Lake on September 19th. We need your help to get the word out. Please contact your classmates to ensure that they know about this celebration. Details can be found on our website.

In summary, the upcoming important dates are:
Saturday, September 19th, 2009 – 90th birthday party of Survey
Camp at Gull Lake. Go on line for details of this event and to register.

Friday, February 26th, 2010 – Our Second Annual Alumni Dinner at
89 Chestnut.

As always, please ensure that your classmates and other alumni are receiving this newsletter. If they are not receiving it, ask them to contact Nelly or Colin to update their mailing addresses in our records.

I hope you enjoy this issue. Have a great summer!


Saving Survey Camp

When Survey Camp opened its doors for the first time in August, 1920, the toll of the Great War was still being counted. The losses were unprecedented, not only in
terms of actual wartime casualties, but in our capacity to support the systems, structures and functions of civil society that kept populations alive in peacetime as well.

While the world was turning to civil engineers to lead in the rebuilding of Europe, huge challenges also existed back in Canada. The School of Practical Science and the
government of the day recognized that thousands of skilled men returning home meant unpredictable population shifts and greater demands on the country’s infrastructure.

The vast, largely untouched lands north of Toronto were prime to be opened up for settlement, and civil engineers needed the perfect place to learn how to do it – a
beautifully rugged tract of land on the shores of Gull Lake.

Survey Camp has existed through some remarkable times: the Great Depression, World War II, the moon landing, and the walls of its historic buildings echo with such history.

Today, however, the challenges may be even more complex than in the past. In today’s environmentally threatened world, civil engineers are being asked to do more than

Today’s Challenges
The sudden, deep economic crisis that gripped the world in 2008 has placed huge financial constraints on all institutions’ budgets, and the University of Toronto is no exception. In January of this year, the University’s Administration faced the difficult decision to suspend the endowment payout slated for April 30, 2009.

Although the Faculty found internal sources to fund the majority of obligations normally supported by endowment, it resulted in enormous pressures on our operating budgets.

While we have been hit hard by the decline in financial markets, this situation cannot compromise our ability to deliver the highest quality education of any research university in the world. It is even more important that we re-commit ourselves to preserving Survey Camp – a unique feature of our Engineering Program that sets us apart from all others.

The heritage buildings at Gull Lake are beautiful, but they are aging along with the equipment stored inside. When it was originally built, the property was rather isolated. But the massive growth of the cottage market has meant that it is now situated in the middle of a prime vacation destination. Given these conditions, the case to sell-off the land could be seen as more compelling than ever.

We know that the closure of camp would be a devastating blow to the thousands of you whose University memories were distilled in those few weeks. Even worse would be the larger educational cost: the threat of closure and sell-off comes at a time when the world is turning to civil engineers on a scope never seen before in history.

Engineers are now being asked to solve the greatest problems of our time: the environmental and even social troubles that threaten the future of the very planet itself.

Our program has changed to meet these educational needs. The overarching theme of environmental, social and economic sustainability now permeates every course we teach. We know we can’t let our program shrink, and we’re ready to do something to protect it. We hope that you will join us in our efforts to Save Survey Camp.

The Opportunities
Ironically, the same phenomenon that is threatening Survey Camp may also prove to be the key to saving it. Huge demand for cottage space in the vicinity of Gull Lake
means that we have an opportunity to build a viable income property on the site.

The cottage(s) that have been proposed could be rented to alumni, faculty, staff, and other friends of the Department at highly competitive rates, turning Survey Camp into an inexpensive, convenient vacation site that supports an educational cause close to all our hearts.

The building projects envisioned could be wrapped into course work for current students as well as research for graduates and faculty. Topics such as sustainable buildings, envelope design, and energy could all be tied directly to each phase of the development, providing a hands-on value added experience for our students that would be unmatched in engineering education.

With this new development, we envision camp as a sustainable part of the Department that will serve students and alumni, be protected from the ups and downs of the financial market, provide a remarkable educational opportunity – and all this while staying committed to the principles of ecologically friendly design.

What We Need From You
In order to make this work, we need plenty of support from all corners of our community.

We need to tap into the vast know-how of our alumni group, and we are facilitating this through several different Alumni Task Forces. The first, the Survey Camp Initiative group, will help write a master business plan for the project,outlining its scope, initial financial cost, and logistics of making the project happen. The second will focus on External Relations, helping us to ensure that we are making
and maintaining the right connections and sending the right messages as an institution of higher education. The final group will deal with the Student Experience, and will ensure that we keep our program vital, relevant and interesting
in these challenging times.

We will need donations in kind – construction materials, supplies, tools, and transportation for all of this to Gull Lake. If you have or work with building materials, this may be the perfect way for you to get involved. Indeed, it would be of great practical help in accomplishing our goal.

Finally, we need financial donations of any amount, from individual supporters that might help us offset material costs or furnishings to class or industry sponsorship that could name a cottage and then use it throughout the year.

If you are in touch with classmates from your years, please be speak with them about the potential of this initiative. Several small donations, when pooled together, can have amazing results.

Survey Camp has survived plenty of monumental changes in the 20th Century. As we head into the future, we can ensure that we are prepared to protect this vital asset, the crown jewel of our Department, from all the unforeseen challenges that lie ahead. We can’t wait to get started, and we would love to hear from you. Please be in touch.

Greener Graduates

Civil and Mineral Engineers are given no small task: they are responsible for building us a society that is clean, prosperous and healthy. In short, they give us the means by which we enjoy our quality of life.

In the past, this quality of life was achieved by way of short-term plans that did not take the environment or the needs of future people into consideration. As a result, we now live in a world with mounting environmental concerns even as our technology and knowledge of sustainable
practices increases.

Environmentally-conscious engineering is no longer optional. The world needs its engineers to put the environment first, and U of T is now positioning itself as a leader in sustainable design and practice.

About a year ago, a student-led presentation to our Academic Planning Committee outlined several key areas in which we could embed the theme of sustainability. Our committee was inspired by this, responding with the single most significant change in curriculum in our Department’s history.

The Sustainability Initiative, as it has been called around the Department, includes the following: “Technology in Society and the Biosphere,” formerly an elective course, will become core to the second year program. “Sustainable Energy Systems” and “Water and Wastewater Treatment” are now core to third year, and several new electives including “Sustainable Buildings” and “Infrastructure for Sustainable Cities” have been added to our roster for the coming year.

Professor Chris Kennedy, Chair of the Academic Planning Committee, expands on the initiative’s purpose. “We should be teaching our students the technical skills to manage society’s material and waste flows in a sustainable manner, reduce the environmental ‘footprint’ from civil engineered systems and supply energy from renewable sources.”

For Professor Bill Vanderburg, part of the problem has been the intensive specialization that has been promoted in certain disciplines in the past. “Each discipline and specialty must be equipped with a ‘map’ showing its connections to everything else, but especially the negative consequences that tend to be associated with its practices. More preventively oriented practices can improve the ratio of desired to undesired effects of design and decision-making to create ways of life that are more sustainable across the board, as opposed to ameliorating symptoms (such as global warming). This groundbreaking has fired the imagination of many students.”

The Sustainability Initiative has also supported several student-driven projects and research in sustainability.

The Sky Garden, a project created, designed and carried out by graduate students Kyla Smith, Sarah Wilson and Heather Wray, includes an organic rooftop garden on top of the Galbraith Building. Grown with heritage seeds, the space on our rooftop will provide an educational test
ground for future green roof projects in Canada, not to mention fresh veggies!

It is one more decisive step toward sustainability that we hope will serve as a model for engineers about to embark on their professional careers.

As always, alumni are encouraged to take part in all our projects. Support our students, tell us what you are doing, and get involved!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Inaugural Alumni Dinner

This Spring CIV, GEO and MIN alumni spanning over 60 years attended our Inaugural Alumni Dinner. Over 100 alumni and 50 other guests helped us relive our Department's amazing past, celebrate our present and inspire some of the key developments coming in our near future.

Joining them at the tables were Professors, staff and several top students, who were honoured for strong academic or extra-curricular performance. Attendees enjoyed an incredible 5 course dinner, a chance to catch up with classmates, and an opportunity to forge new connections. Several local companies including Halsall Associates and Golder Associates also sponsored tables.

Despite being held on a dubious day - Friday, February 13th - the evening went off without a hitch.

As guests arrived, they had a chance to view historical photos of Survey Camp as well as a wonderful painting recently given to us by alumnus Ian Harrington (CIV5T8). As you can see in the photo, the vibrant colours and sharp attention to detail truly bring the history of Gull
Lake to life.

Once guests had a chance to mingle, fourth year students Marianne Touchie and Ekaterina Tzekova (CIV0T9) were invited to the stage to introduce the Promise to Future Generations to the alumni community. The "Promise," as it is called for short, is a voluntary commitment that is available to graduating students in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. It sets out
clear principles of environmental and social sustainability that are especially important for engineers given their unique power to create healthy societies. Developed and administered by students, the initiative attracted great support from those in attendance.

The evening was also an opportunity to celebrate our common history at Camp. After a brief speech by Brenda McCabe (CIV9T4) which outlined both the threats to and opportunities for camp, guests were invited to weigh in on camp’s meaning through stories, anecdotes, and ideas.

The alumni did not disappoint – from Orlando Martini’s hilarious story about a bear in the washroom to David Gray’s passionate speech on the need to save camp, it was clear that the spirit in our alumni community has not waned despite the passing of time.

Marta Eschedi (CIV7T6) and Steve Dennis (CIV9T9) underlined this fact, while John Starkey (MIN6T1) showed us that Mining alumni feel the same way.

As a result of the strong positive response we received on the idea of saving camp, we have formed a task force of dedicated alumni, faculty and staff who are currently putting together an exciting and innovative plan. It would not only see camp preserved for a generation, but
would make it a facility enjoyed year-round by students and alumni alike.

For the administrative staff planning the event, the strong alumni showing was taken as an indication that the CIV-GEO-MIN alumni community wants more opportunities to come together.

Our Department is unique - our alumni come from several historical backgrounds. Each has its own identity and culture, but all share a common bond: at camp, at Skule, and
in many other areas of the profession.

We hope you will join us for the Second Annual CIV-GEOMIN Alumni Dinner on Friday, February 26, 2010. We can’t wait to update you on our progress at camp and hear your
latest stories as well.

Look in the next Civilian or on our website for more details
on this, our great new tradition.

Building Cities That Work

By Pat Doherty

Professor Eric J. Miller, well known for his contributions to the Department of Civil Engineering over the years, is moving. Since his appointment as Director of U of T’s new Cities Centre,
Professor Miller has been juggling various projects and commitments working from his SF office and from home, and is looking forward to immersing himself in a workplace dedicated
to interdisciplinary urban research.

Why take on this additional task with the Cities Centre? Eric states, “I will maintain my ties with the department, continuing to teach and supervise graduate students. And my research
at the Urban Transportation Research Advancement Centre is ongoing. But the mandate of Cities Centre is very close to my heart: to promote and undertake university-based,
interdisciplinary research across the spectrum of urban issues (physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, economic development, urban design, governance, finance, health, environment,
etc.); to network together the diverse strengths of the very broad spectrum of disciplines, departments and programs that exist within the University to provide a holistic approach
to major urban planning, design, development and management policy issues. These things are key to much of my life’s work.”

More Space
A visit to 455 Spadina shows that renovations move apace. Grace Ramirez, Cities Centre Administrator and Registrar, oversees the renovation work generally, keeps close tabs on the financial side of things and apprises Eric of the latest developments. She is quick to praise the re-designed space of the former Centre for Urban and Community Studies (CUCS, now folded in to Cities Centre). “Our renovated space will provide work space for research associates, visiting scholars, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students,” says Grace. “Now staff, research associates, and visitors to Cities Centre, as well as students in the Community Development Collaborative Graduate Program, will have access to updated amenities such as new network
wiring—the old cabling was obsolete—a library, and a proper meeting room.”

Where the majority of the space was previously cut up into small offices, many of them windowless, now natural light will flow through glass-panel walls and doors from the outer perimeter of the building to an open-concept work area in the centre. “It’s going to look fresher, and definitely a lot more welcoming” adds Grace.

More Collaboration
“This kind of space, where interaction happens naturally and easily, is excellent for collaborative project work,” Eric enthuses. “We hope that it will provide an environment conducive to knowledge transfer, debate and innovative thinking.” Cities Centre has 23 UofT partners and has been a sponsor of interdisciplinary events and meetings in its brief existence so far. In the current academic year, 18 events featuring 52 speakers from 15 disciplines have received Cities Centre’s support.

“Cities Centre works hard to make these public events accessible to as wide a cross-section of UofT scholars and the community at large as possible. Most of the issues addressed are the
burning issues of the day: why our federal politicians should pay attention to our cities, or, how big box retailers impact on our neighbourhoods. We are honoured to join with our partners
in assisting with these public presentations.”

More Research
Eric envisions that Cities Centre will act as a technical Centre of Excellence for analysis, modeling and visualization, with respect to the urban region database and its management. Several
large research proposals are in the works, and a few smaller ones have already borne fruit. The “City Indicators Facility” funded by The World Bank has as its principal investigator Cities Centre Senior Advisor and Director of the Global Cities Program at the Munk Centre, Patricia McCarney. David Hulchanski, Associate Director of Research at Cities Centre, heads up a multi-year CURA grant entitled “Community Gentrification and the Concept of Building Inclusive Communities from Within: Toronto’s West-Central Neighbourhoods as a Case
Study.” Hulchanki’s recent paper “The Three Cities Within Toronto” received much attention, from the media and from concerned citizens and policymakers who will use the published
research findings to influence policy change.

The Future
Physical renovations of the Cities Centre’s physical space will be accompanied by a virtual rehaul of its website in the next few months. A fresh look, in person and online, will soon greet
you at Cities Centre. All visitors are most welcome!

Keep in Touch
Subscribe to Cities Centre’s listserv by emailing


Professor Will Bawden is stepping down as Director of the Lassonde Mineral Engineering program after 12 years at the helm. He dedicated his efforts to interfacing with industry and students to strengthen the curriculum and the student experience. On behalf of the MIN students and alumni, Thank You, Will.

Taking his place is a new face, Professor John Hadjigeorgiou. We were extremely fortunate to attract him to the University of Toronto. John’s background is similar to Will’s, so there will be a strong continuity of excellence and proactive promotion of the program. Welcome John!

Congratulations to our most recent alumni - the classes of MIN0T9 and CIV0T9 attended their convocation on June 19th. The class of 97 students had 18 students graduating with honours!

It is our great pleasure to announce that Barry Adams and Michael Collins were made Fellows of the Engineering Institute of Canada at an awards ceremony this spring. A maximum of twenty EIC Fellows, representing less than 0.1% of the combined membership of the twelve Engineering Societies in the EIC Group have been selected. This is a rare distinction. Congratulations to these two very deserving inductees!

Receiving numerous awards throughout his career, Manuel (Manny) Fine (CIV5T2) recently learned of one more: the Heavy Constuction Association of Toronto’s support of The Manuel A. Fine Scholarship in recognition for his years of service to the Association. The scholarship will be awarded to a student in their third or fourth year, in the Department of Civil Engineering based on strong academic achievement and a demonstrated interest in construction as evidenced by
their focus of study, extra-curricular activities or summer employment. Read more about Manny, HCAT and their generous support of our scholarship programs on our website and in our next issue of The Civilian.

Last year, Eyes Of Hope (an initiative by Civil students) took action on the
fight against poverty in Toronto by helping to build homes for low-income
families through Habitat for Humanity.
This summer, they will be launching a faculty wide project to sponsor a
"UofT Engineering home" for a low-income family. All U of T staff, students,
and alumni are welcome to support or participate in any of the
build events. Visit for more details. In the past
year, they have
- organized 8 build-events
- sent 120 volunteers to the construction site
- provided 740 hours of service
- raised $4500

Do you have a Milestone to share with us? Email or send mail to Civil Engineering, 35 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1A4