A passion for sustainable solutions
Four young Queen’s alumni are helping to build a new kind of Calgary engineering company.
Putting together their different training, but complementary visions, four young Calgary alumni have become key talents in an innovative employee-owned niche consulting and engineering company that’s providing an integrated approach to water, waste, and energy management.
The four, who work for Integrated Sustainability Consultants Ltd. (ISCL), have similar perspectives on their respective professions – from an emphasis on front-end problem solving to the importance of cultivating a positive, passionate work environment.
“The key is the culture that you build,” director of projects A.J. MacDonald, Artsci’05, says of the high standards that ISCL founder and president Stuart Torr, the company’s U.K.-born and -educated founder, has instilled in the business that he started in 2010. These are the same values A.J. has helped to foster since he joined ISCL in early 2011.
“That’s really the only way we’re going to continue to attract top talent,” the 33-year-old Ottawa native explains.
That top talent already on board includes director of strategic planning Ryan Murphy, Artsci’04, who signed on last year; director of technology and innovation Patrick Leslie, Sc’10, Artsci’11, and Sean Speer, PhD’11, both of whom began work earlier this year. The four Queen’smen are now a third of ISCL’s 12-person staff. The vibrant employee-owned business is thriving, as it takes on ever-more innovative engineering projects and builds its reputation.
It didn’t take long for an awareness of ISCL to ripple through the Calgary’s area’s Tricolour alumni network; many Queen’s alumni work in the oil and gas industries.
“I’ve been volunteering with the QUAA here in Calgary for several years now,” says Ryan, a 29-year-old Quispamsis, N.B., native, “and so I thought, ‘Why doesn’t ISCL sponsor a Branch wine-and-cheese?’ So we did. ”
That gathering raised the company’s profile and prompted a number of attendees to apply for work, Patrick Leslie among them. “We received some phenomenal resumes from Queen’s alumni,” Ryan notes. The rest, as they say, is history – or to be more precise, ISCL’s future.
“It seemed like a natural fit for both sides,” says Patrick. “I was very impressed with the work Integrated Sustainability is doing.”
Like his employer, the 24-year-old stands out. During his student days at Queen’s, he founded his own company. Envirolytics created a smartphone application that provides custom solutions for home energy efficiency, and he helped lead the school’s solar design team in building a full-size solar home on campus.
Patrick, a Calgarian born-and-bred, grew up beside the oil patch; he’s a progressive thinker, just like the three generations of Leslies before him who called the Stampede City home. They include his great uncle Jack Leslie, Mayor of Calgary 1965-69 (the first native Calgarian to hold the job). Jack Leslie led the opposition that prevented the Canadian Pacific Railway from laying train tracks through valuable tracts of land that have become green spaces and parks such as Confederation Park and Nose Hill.
Patrick notes that his great uncle was “doing sustainability before it was cool. He was something of a rogue in his day ... what we’d now describe as a sustainability advocate. It was about making Calgary a better city.”
Like Mayor Leslie, ISCL faces its share of challenges in a competitive, fast-paced industry that has been accused of focusing on the bottom-line rather than ancillary concerns such as the environment.
“A key factor to our competitiveness is that we’re a niche consulting firm,” Ryan says. “We specialize in water, waste and energy management.”
Sean, 32, another Ottawa native, agrees. “Our reputation is growing because we’re creative problem solvers. We focus on conceptualization, and planning, and that’s really where things like sustainability and integrating different disciplines become vitally important.”
A typical ISCL project was the work the firm did to help with the design of an innovative and sustainable industrial water supply system to replace an obsolete river intake that was built in the mid-1980s. Another was working with students at the high school in nearby Cochrane to build on-site wind turbines and solar panels, a project that will help boost the town’s future infrastructure and provide technical jobs for years to come.
“The next generation knows where the future is,” Patrick Leslie says of mentoring the young students. Ryan nods. He, like many fellow Queen’s grads, had his own mentor during his student days in Kingston: Prof. Scott Lamoureux (Geography).
Ryan observes that Queen’s is “packed full” of bright, passionate people, faculty as well as students. “I think their passion really comes from the culture on campus. When you’re there you feel like you can make a difference and have a positive impact on the world,” he says. “That’s what all of us here at ISCL are striving to do.”