DECember 2009 issue



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The Climate Factor

A national committee has developed a protocol for keeping infrastructure up to snuff in a changing climate. And your Environment Committee is bringing this emerging knowledge to the 2010 APEGGA Annual Conference

Assistant Director
Professional Practice

How do you assess the vulnerability of infrastructure due to climate change? That’s a subject your Environment Committee is tackling head on, by bringing a protocol workshop to the APEGGA Annual Conference in Edmonton in 2010.

I have attended the first workshop based on the protocol and would like to pass along some of what I’ve learned. You can look at this as a primer for the conference or an introduction to a subject many of you will be addressing in coming years.

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba hosted the workshop in Winnipeg. The protocol comes out of the work of the Engineers Canada Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee, known as PIEVC. The committee was created to conduct an engineering assessment of the vulnerability of Canada’s public infrastructure to the impacts of climate change. The protocol was developed to aid in this purpose.

The protocol is an extremely powerful tool, and it’s an excellent beginning to APEGGA’s program on adapting to climate change. It provides a national and regional picture of the vulnerability of different types of buildings and infrastructure, such as dams, water and wastewater systems, pipelines, roads, bridges and other engineering works. These encompass urban and rural areas, and come from representative regions across Canada.

APEGGA’s Environment Committee has decided to focus on adapting to climate change, as this is a subject the membership can actually do something about. From this decision, our Climate Change Subcommittee was born. The subcommittee’s intent is to develop a program, or a toolbox, to make professional engineers and geoscientists aware of the potential for climate change to alter their designs.

Based on that, there was good reason to send me to the PIEVC workshop.

The workshop began with a presentation from Dr. Danny Blair from the University of Winnipeg. He briefly went over his work in climate science and modeling research. The presentation was an eye-opener and showed just how deep this subject is.

From there, Joel Nodelman, P.Eng., of Nodelcorp Consulting, a key contributor to the PIEVC protocol, presented a high-level description of risk assessment and how the protocol is used to assess vulnerabilities.

After lunch the protocol was worked on in depth, through real-world case studies. Four were presented, through the steps of the protocol. Each increasing step goes into further and further detail. When you participate in the roundtable work, each step makes you think in even more detail.

The protocol is based on risk assessments. The basis of assessing risk is the likelihood of the event, multiplied by the severity, to come up with a risk value. Upon determining this risk value, you proceed with more detail, depending on how high the number is.

Step 1 was a presentation by Vince Catalli from MHPM Project Managers, about Tunney’s Pasture buildings in Ottawa. Mr. Catalli went over the process of how his group evaluated the buildings. The protocol for this case is a tool that forces engineers, architects, maintenance personnel and others involved with the building to think of all aspects of it that could be affected by a changing climate (for example, building envelope, structure and HVAC system).

We broke into groups and my table was assigned the HVAC system. We went through the protocol and developed a matrix that dealt with ducting, the heating system and the cooling system. We assessed the likelihood of a significant event and the severity of this event, to come up with a risk on the area inside the building.

This is a fascinating way to look at an issue with more detail, no matter how insignificant.

The presentations for Step 2 to Step 5 went through similar processes of the protocol (minus Step 4, engineering analysis, which we had to skip because of time constraints). The case studies were the Vancouver Stormwater/Wastewater Collection System, the Portage La Prairie Water Dam and Treatment Facility, and the Edmonton Quesnell Bridge Refurbishment.

PEGG readers may remember a story about the Quesnell bridge project. You can find it in the November 2008 PEGG Online at www.apega.ca.

If you want to find out more on this challenging and important subject, I highly recommend the conference presentations.

A one-day protocol session will be of interest to engineers and geoscientists involved in the design, operation, maintenance and management of infrastructure. It is for those who, now and in the future, need to consider climate change for this work, in new infrastructure or in rehabilitating or retrofitting existing infrastructure. The presentations will inform you about emerging techniques, technologies, plans and regulations for the adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

Another day of  individual presentations will cover what’s happening in other areas of Canada to adapt to climate change. Examples include

  • Addressing the Knowledge Gaps, by Jeff Walker, P.Eng., of the Canadian Standards Association

  • Design Considerations for Roads and Associated Structures, by David Lapp, P.Eng., of Engineers Canada

  • Strategies for Municipalities, by Lawson Oates, the director of the City of Toronto Environment Office

  • Adapting to Climate Change from the Insurance Industry’s Role, by Robert Tremblay, director of the Insurance Bureau of Canada

  • Design Criteria For Permafrost Regions Under Climate, by Heather Auld of Environment Canada.

Check out the special insert in this month’s PEGG for full details on registration.