September 26, 2017. Photo by Brett Gundlock

Akira Jones joined HH Angus in 2012.

What do you like most about working at HH Angus?

It’s the people, which I say to anyone who works elsewhere! This company has done a great job of bringing on people who are friendly and open, and this supports a very social environment. I’m happy to come to work every day, and I genuinely like the people I work with. When people ask me in social situations about my work, I always say, “It’s a great place to work!” And then my wife jumps in with, “oh, he loves his job so much!” I spend more time here then I do anywhere else, so it is really important to me that it’s a good place to work, it’s comfortable, management is great, it is open door everywhere – it’s the best!

How do you contribute to the design and construction of the built environment?

I joined HH Angus as a Revit specialist on the massive CHUM hospital project in Montreal (Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal), where I supported our team by troubleshooting issues and managing the Revit and BIM aspects of the project. Then I transitioned into project engineering, because that’s my background, and I did project engineering on CHUM and a variety of other projects, including BMO Field, which was a very enjoyable project. Then, I began doing purely BIM work and now serve as the BIM manager. My team supports all HH Angus projects on the BIM-related aspects of our projects – hardware, software, troubleshooting, process, providing interface with other consultants regarding BIM issues, etc.


Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal

BMO Field

How has HH Angus helped you grow in your career?

The company has always provided me with a lot of latitude to try new things and explore new technology. They provide all the support and training I need to do that. Being able to try new ideas allows staff to own their own growth, with the support of formal training and mentorship. I’ve had great mentorship from senior managers here, who provided so much insight and support early in my career to help me continue to progress.  When you’re starting out, getting that kind of knowledge transfer from somebody who has a lot more experience, and who is willing to take the time to pass it on and guide you through your career, that makes a big impact on all of us here.

Why did you want to become an engineer?   

As a kid, I really liked building stuff. I loved Lego and toys like that. My family also has a history of DIY renovations around the house, so I was always learning how to do things. Also, I was good at math and science and I assumed engineering would be the best option. How I got into consulting? I think it was pure luck; it could have been anything. But, I am very happy where I ended up, because now I get to do work that I am passionate about.

The company has always provided me with a lot of latitude to try new things and explore new technology. They provide all the support and training I need to do that.

What have been some significant projects for you?

CHUM, obviously – it’s probably the biggest project that I’ll ever work on! It had so many different moving parts, so many great teams. I gained so much experience – technical, project management, project administration, and so on. I came onto the project as a Revit expert and came out of it knowing even more, which is great. We had the opportunity to try many different approaches, software-wise and technology-wise, on CHUM and we were able to push the boundaries of BIM, which I thought was great.

Another significant project was BMO Field – it was a great project with an amazing team. It was a special because BMO Field is a landmark in Toronto, and we were able to contribute to making it a world-class soccer facility for professionals. That was pretty cool – a great learning experience.

Describe a typical day for you.

Much of my role is keeping my team moving, helping them with issues they need answers to. It doesn’t mean that I always know the answer, but I sometimes will offer a suggestion and say ‘try this and see if it works out’. I connect with clients; I have active projects, so I deal with issues on those projects; I work a lot on the technical and knowledge management aspects of our projects. A lot of my work is answering questions, solving challenges, and helping people to do the work they are trying to deliver – that’s a big part of being a manager.

What are some of the things you like about HH Angus, outside the technical work?

I love the social events - the Stampede Breakfast, Golf Day, the Christmas Luncheon. I love that we have a formal dinner dance for the entire staff every couple of years to celebrate our long-time employees. It really shows what is great about this company - you can see when we are all together in a social setting that everybody is smiling, everybody is having a good time, everybody is happy. That says a lot.

What are some accomplishments you’re proud of?

There are a couple of things, actually.  One is the Matterport scanner – I introduced it to the company and now it’s constantly in use. The employees enjoy it, the clients enjoy the benefits – that’s a great tool.

Another proud moment was finishing BMO Field. It was an extremely fast-paced, two-phase project that had to be delivered in time for the start of the soccer season. There was a very aggressive schedule. Everybody involved really had to step up. So, when both phases were completed, it was a very proud moment for me on behalf of HH Angus because, as a team, we came together and made that work.

How do you explain your job to someone outside the engineering industry?

I think most engineers experience this: somebody spots the engineer’s ring and says, “oh, you’re an engineer, so you must know how to do this or that.” Most people have only a vague idea about what engineers do and don’t really appreciate that we specialize across such a wide variety of engineering fields. So when I tell people what I do, I say that I use technology to facilitate the engineering work that we do, and keep it very simple so people’s eyes don’t glaze over. Because it’s somewhat complicated when you get into BIM and database-driven design, Revit models and databases and 3D visualization

Akira with his team

Akira with his team

What are trends in engineering that excite you?

Engineering is changing. There are so many different aspects to data and Big Data, and you can already see the impact of analytics. Large construction companies are using analytics to increase their abilities, and to manage and gain information about the project; for example, safety information or construction scheduling.

We are also able to make better decisions based on the information we have. It is not only to being able to automate some of the work that we do, but also to use technology; for example, generative design.  It is not necessarily that we do the work faster, but we can do exponentially more tasks faster. A computer can generate a thousand good options on how a building could be oriented, versus engineers using our judgment and experience and saying, “well, based on my years of experience - this is the best”. Now, the computer will give you a thousand options that are better than you could ballpark.

The ability to make really good decisions about creating efficient designs is important, because a big part of what we should be thinking about is sustainability. We have a huge part to play in creating buildings that approach Net Zero, and technology can help us make better decisions sooner, so we can create those designs. I think that’s interesting. We hear a lot about AI machines, etc.  I think that’s coming, but it may be a bit further away for consulting engineers specifically; but, we certainly can automate the work that is repetitive and labour intensive.

Is artificial intelligence going to affect the human element of our industry?

It will. Every time there is a paradigm shift in how we work, people fear that - “what are the people who do this work going to do?” But, the reality is that new technology makes the pie bigger and provides opportunities for new types of work that employ more people. This means that there will be more work that is fruitful and less work that is repetitive and unstimulating. There are so many examples: people thought ATMs were going to end tellers’ jobs. However, ATMs allowed banks to open more branches, serve more customers, and actually employ more tellers. That’s a great example of how this works. So we are going to see shifts like that.    

What skills or traits have helped you advance in your career?

Persistence! Never give up, that’s the thing - you have to keep going. Never lose the will to learn something new. We are living in a time of change – you have to be able to change how you do things at any age, you have to be able to learn something new every day and never lose the urge to try something different. Also, be kind to the people around you – HH Angus is a great example of that. This place always keeps itself moving, but it is also important to take time to help somebody, because you never know when you are going to need help. 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I really like cooking! Maybe people will be surprised to know that.  And I really like taking back-country canoe trips. That’s something my wife and I have done a lot in the past and one of our favorite things to do. I also like to play Frisbee.

Enhancing the BIM process with 3D image capture

Prior to the digital age, engineers conveyed their work and collaborated through hand-drawn designs. Building inspections and site investigations were conducted using a tape measure, a pencil and graph paper. At that time, drawing by hand was the only way to accurately capture existing information and to develop new designs.

Advances in technology have since changed the way that engineers capture and convey information. Digital cameras replaced hand drawn sketches during site investigations, and computer-aided design programs, such as Sketch-up and Revit, replaced the practice of drawing by hand. These new tools lead to increased accuracy, efficiency during site investigations and design, and the ability to digitally store and reuse information.

As technology continues to develop, so too do the methods for which buildings are designed and their data is captured, stored and used. Revit has become the industry standard for accurately modeling new buildings and their systems in 3D – more commonly included as part of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Even with BIM tools, designers and engineers are confronted with days of laborious and time consuming BIM modeling due to hand-drawn measurements, notes and 2D photographs from the site which add to the length of the project schedule and budget. New technologies are emerging, including lasers and infrared beam scanners, which allow for data-rich information of existing spaces to be rapidly captured, stored and digitally explored.

HH Angus uses a Matterport 3D Scanner to capture existing spaces which is then converted into 3D models for our clients. We have used these models in a variety of situations and continue to push what can be accomplished by having an accurate, to-scale 3D model of existing buildings and their systems as well as the value it can help us deliver to our clients.

The value of 3D image capture and modeling for existing buildings projects:

1. Capture site information faster and accurately

An accurate 3D model of existing conditions (typically within a centimetre of hand measurements) through image scanning the space. This process can usually be done up to 60% faster than traditional hand measurements. Because the image scanning captures information in a point cloud, this information can be automatically imported into Revit, eliminating the need for manually entering hand measurements and reducing the time of creating the Revit model by nearly half. The BIM model can be provided to consultants, potential bidders and contractors allowing them 24/7 access. When the site information is available in a digital and 3D photorealistic format, the result is fewer questions during RFP periods and fewer site visits are required.

2. Capture spaces during construction

The ability to use image scanning to capture site information and create a 3D model at any time during construction can be very useful in a variety of situations. For example,  recording a snapshot of progress for contractor payment draws or to provide enhanced construction documentation to project stakeholders. Capturing the space when services are installed but before walls and ceiling are in place can be a great reference for reference for future maintenance and renovations.

3. Digital representation of spaces and assets

 While many newer buildings may have accurate construction data stored in a BIM model which is helpful for future renovations, expansions or retrofits, many older buildings were built before CAD and BIM was common. 3D image scanning can quickly create digital models of these existing buildings by vastly streamlining the time-consuming process of collecting building details by hand measurements and then subsequent manual entry to create a BIM model.

Information can also be associated to a building space or asset within a 3D model such as a piece of mechanical equipment or electrical panel. Information that can be mapped to an asset can include the O&M manual, last service date, information from a building condition assessment, and other types of information. This can be done for an existing facility without requiring a complete BIM model.

4. Remote access for facility managers

A 3D model can allow facility managers to ”walk” through building areas and read equipment information from a nameplate remotely with only an internet connection required. It could also be done from a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. The ability to access this level of detail remotely can be extremely useful for troubleshooting and for organizations that have multiple sites spread out geographically. 

5. Future Developments in 3D Image Scanning 

Currently, point cloud data generated in 3D image scanning still needs to be converted into useable data to create a BIM model. This is typically an additional and fairly manual process. With advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, research is underway where algorithms can be used to automatically identify structural elements and interior furnishings, elimintating the need for a person to manually identify these items in the process of converting a point cloud file to a BIM model. This could even further streamline the process allowing engineers and designers to focus on value-added tasks rather than losing time on determining the status of the existing building condition.

3D Model in Action

HH Angus has captured and converted over 165 of our clients’ spaces to 3D models. We were engaged by St. Joseph’s Healthcare Centre to redesign and renovate the Nuclear Medicine and MRI areas of their Digital Imaging Suite. During the first site visit, HHA scanned the area using the Matterport Scanner to create a 3D model of the space. This model has since been used throughout the design and tender process of the project, and will continue to be used in the construction phase.


Akira Jones

BIM Lead

Melissa Parry

BIM Specialist