D.A. Watt Consulting Group Ltd.: Engineering the Calgary Skyline

David Watt took a chance in 1983 by founding D.A. Watt Consulting Group Ltd. (DAW) at a time when the economy of Alberta – and Calgary in particular – was in decline, sending unemployment up from four to 10 percent.

Against all odds Watt’s intuition paid off. The company began building strong client relationships in a diverse array of industries. Today, value, professionalism and experience define DAW’s practice, solidifying the company’s place as one of Alberta’s most respected engineering and consulting firms. Above all, DAW conducts business with an eye for pursuing sound, stable and long-term career opportunities, ensuring the company and its clients succeed and grow together.

“I’m a civil engineer by profession, and had worked in land development for 10 years prior to founding DAW, so our focus has traditionally been in civil engineering,” says Watt. The Calgary-based practice has expanded over the years to also provide transportation engineering, project management services as well as geomatics engineering and legal surveying services. The multidisciplinary team of 80 professionals has amassed a portfolio of completed projects that run the gamut from historical restoration to transit-oriented development.

According to Watt, none of this would have been possible without the teamwork and direction of long-term partners Tom Medlicott, Nick Finn and Grant McDonald. Medlicott led the legal survey and geomatics department, while Finn established DAW as a leader in transportation engineering, which left McDonald to direct the practice into project management of utility services. Watt is proud to have several long-term employees who have been with the firm since its start up.

Watt estimates that 80 percent of the company’s work is concentrated in the greater Calgary metropolitan area, with the remaining 20 percent dedicated to projects in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Wherever the location, DAW brings a diverse range of technical skills to the table, supporting both its employees and clients with a collection of advanced technologies and equipment. The team in turn approaches each project with the same mentality of a smaller consulting firm. The result is a team that treats every client as a close ally and effectively mobilizes resources to ensure the client receives the attentive service that has become a cornerstone of DAW’s appeal.

Taking the Extra Step

DAW’s ultimate goal is to build value for each client, proving that lowest cost qualifications can’t ensure the ultimate success of a project alone. Instead, DAW looks to stretch a client’s budget farthest by incorporating a variety of services that combine to deliver a result that meets the client’s budgetary, performance and scheduling goals.

The land surveying services in general can help to grease the wheels of many projects by providing accurate and precise topographical maps, eliminating the chance of any surprises further along the development process. DAW’s land surveying expertise has become a critical component in recent years, setting the company apart from competitors since DAW is one of only a handful of firms in the region with 3-D laser scanning capabilities. “I wouldn’t say we’re doing the most laser scanning, but we certainly are doing quite a lot of it,” admits Watt.

DAW’s survey team introduced the 3-D laser scanning technology in 2012 while working with Calgary Transit. “We partnered with a local structural engineering firm to extend the length of the light rail transit platforms to accommodate more train cars,” adds Watt. Calgary Transit identified 22 stations in need of platform lengthening, splitting the project into three phases scheduled for completion in 2015. The platforms will be extended by 25 metres to accommodate the four-car trains Calgary Transit will put in use to improve service and accommodate a growing ridership. Upgrades to the existing signals and switches will have to be carried out, and crews will relocate overhead and underground traction power facilities, as financed by the Building Canada Fund.

Leaving a Legacy

“One of our premier projects in recent years has been compiling the transportation impact study for the Bow building in Calgary,” adds Watt. The Bow is slated for completion in 2012, and it will be the tallest building outside of Toronto once finished. The development was originally designed as two towers, with one taller standing at 58 stories and the second, much shorter tower adjacent, but plans for the second tower were placed on hold in 2009.

DAW provided complete transportation engineering services to the project’s architectural team, comprised of a joint venture of U.K.-based Foster and Partners and Zeidler Partnerships Architects of Calgary, Alberta. DAW consulted with the project’s team to review site access options, parking layouts, traffic circulation and loading dock configurations for the building. DAW also looked at the most effective design for pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities on the Bow’s site as a major component of the project’s place in the revitalization of Calgary’s Downtown core.

DAW also collaborated with the City of Calgary to develop the Transportation Accommodation Plan. The plan aims to alleviate the impact of closing Sixth Avenue to accommodate construction efforts, setting forth recommendations for contraflow lanes in order to maintain transit service and signal coordination to ease congestion and facilitate detoured traffic.

Contributing to such a landmark project has only strengthened DAW’s reputation in the local market and a regional expansion could be on the docket next for DAW, according to Watt. Wherever opportunity leads the team, D.A. Watt Consulting Group Ltd. will stick to the principles of creating value for the client, upholding the highest standards for quality and professionalism, and building on a collective expertise to grow responsibly.