My Quest took me from my home office of ARCADIS Canada in Richmond Hill, Ontario to the E.C Harris HQ in London, UK. My host Rob Evans arranged for a variety of meetings related to environmental planning, sustainable development, public consultation, social impact assessment.
Our discussions focused on introducing key aspects of our work, sharing our experiences and creating a network of like-minded professionals for future opportunities. The online application process was easy and quick to complete. I exchanged several emails with my host as I planned my Quest to communicate my areas of expertise and interests and to discuss what I hoped to gain from the experience. My host also assisted in providing suggestions for accommodations and travel from the airport.
My first impression of the E.C. Harris office was WOW, this is very different. The office was open concept with a variety of work stations, meeting rooms of varying sizes on the perimeter and lockers for employees. It was bright, airy, and lacked the cubical feel I was accustomed to. My next impression was how friendly and helpful employees were when I was introduced. Despite busy schedules and looming deadlines, all made time to answer my questions and engage in discussions on what they did. I was even fortunate to receive invaluable local sight-seeing and restaurant recommendations.
One of the most interesting and potentially relevant discussions centred on a sustainability tool developed at E.C.Harris. This tool, the Sustainability Target Assessment Rating (STAR) provides a score-card approach which enables clients to make decisions based on their sustainability objectives and goals across a wide variety of sectors. This is a tool with tremendous potential for ARCADIS and I was quick to share my knowledge with colleagues once I returned home.
Other discussions during the week focused on the ARCADIS Big Urban Clients and sustainable cities. This innovative business line is focused on outcomes for our urban clients, a concept that ties in with my work on community well-being, albeit on a grander scale, and a more holistic approach to improving life within an urban context.
Mid way through my week I met with Jeremy Stain from Hyder’s London office to discuss Britain’s nuclear waste management process and its search for a host community to store waste. Canada is engaged in a similar process and I had been involved in the community well-being assessment of two northern Ontario communities to determine how hosting a deep geologic repository for nuclear waste could potentially affect its well-being. Our discussion compared the process each country is following and highlighted how we might seek out potential new opportunities by combining expertise both in the UK and in Canada. What became very clear during our discussion, is that nuclear waste is a frightening concept for many, regardless of address, and how the nuclear industry communicates the science, thus enabling the public to learn more about the proposals is critical in obtaining a long term supportive commitment from the public, the community and the local government.
Upon my return to my home office, I spoke to many colleagues about my successful Quest experience. Specific to trying to build on the sustainability tool developed at E.C.Harris, I organized a webinar for a cross section of discipline leads that I felt would benefit from the knowledge and who may be able to contribute to implementing the tool in Canada. We also discussed the BUC program and what it could potentially mean to the City of Toronto.
Another benefit of my Quest experience was meeting a variety of professionals and gaining knowledge of their expertise. During my Quest, an opportunity came up for my home office that needed expertise from one of the E.C. Harris employees I had just met. This collaboration is hopefully the first of many.
I highly recommend a Quest; it expanded my knowledge, furthered my understanding of ARCADIS business lines and helped develop professional relationships.
Special thanks to the Lovinklaan Foundation and to Rob, Azmat, Andrew, Claire, Henry, Matthew, Jose, Nick and Jeremy.
Gwen Brice | Senior Environmental Planner