Ben Toornstra, ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd.

Tell us about your job. What do you do?

As Lead, Building Enclosure Engineering at ISL, I am responsible for projects focusing on the construction, renewal and repair of various components of the building enclosure. The building enclosure separates the interior of a building from the exterior and includes exterior walls, windows, roofs, floors and all of the components that comprise these features. On new construction projects, I work closely with the project team to review enclosure elements and detailing for long-term performance and durability. On existing buildings, I perform assessments that assist building owners in understanding how their buildings are performing and lead rehabilitation projects that renew or upgrade aspects of the building enclosure that may not be performing adequately.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My projects vary greatly in size and scope. I may have up to a few dozen projects on the go at any one time. A typical day includes a mix of office time and time out in the field either carrying out investigations or reviewing work at an active construction site. Occasionally, I also perform various types of on-site tests (e.g. airtightness of a building or water tightness of a new window) that help us confirm the performance criteria of the building enclosure. While at my desk, I usually write proposals or reports, sketch-out enclosure details or carry out a variety of project management tasks related to my ongoing projects.

What’s an exciting project that you’re working on?

An exciting project I am currently working on involves a historical masonry façade on a large hospital building. ISL carried out a façade assessment following concerns with the attachment of the stone to the structure of the building as well as the moisture management of the wall. A big hospital building that must remain operational during construction presents many logistical challenges when designing for a large remediation project. To this end, we are evaluating several remediation options as part of the schematic design phase. Given the size of the building and the repeating façade elements, some unique and interesting modular façade solutions are also being explored.

What’s your favourite thing about working in consulting?

My favourite thing about working in consulting is the variety of projects I become involved in. I’ve enjoyed working on all types of buildings from small remote shelters to downtown high-rise buildings and everything in between. Each building presents unique challenges and provides the opportunity to gain experience in something I haven’t come across before. The diversity in clients, project teams and buildings makes each project different from the last and creates a variety that keeps the work interesting.

How does your work affect people’s lives, the environment and the world around us?

Many of our projects involve the restoration of existing buildings that have experienced failure of the building enclosure, most often from water ingress. At residential buildings, these units are people’s homes and often represent their single greatest asset. Our emphasis is to carry out enclosure repairs and upgrades that will protect these assets for many years to come, keeping people’s homes safe and comfortable.

As building enclosure engineers, one of our goal on every project is to minimize the energy requirements of the building by achieving an air-tight and well-insulated enclosure. Reducing heat loss and air leakage across the enclosure not only reduces building energy consumption, but also improves the thermal comfort for occupants.


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