We’re delighted to be featured in The Canadian Business Journal’s September issue. The article highlights HH Angus’ accomplishments, our 100 years in business, and explores our plans for the future.  Paul Keenan, President and Sameer Dhargalkar, VP Business Development and Marketing, are interviewed.

Established in Toronto in 1919 by Harry Holborn Angus, HH Angus & Associates Limited has firmly established itself as one of the preeminent engineering and building designs professionals in Canada.

It was 100 years ago when Harry Holborn Angus opened his practice, specializing in mechanical and electrical consulting engineering services. Since then, the firm has enjoyed continuous, sustained growth throughout the decades to where we are a century later.

HH Angus continued to grow through the early years before transitioning to HH’s son Don Angus and now it is led by CEO Harry G. Angus, who has been with the firm for more than 40 years. The family legacy has seen the company blossom from a sole proprietorship to a firm that now has more than 250 people. In addition to the Toronto head office, HH Angus also has established bricks & mortar presences in Montreal, Chicago and Dallas. Due to a large number of projects in British Columbia it was recently decided an office presence in Vancouver would best meet the demands of those western endeavours.

What else was happening in 1919? Canada’s Prime Minister was Robert Borden. Dial telephones were introduced by AT&T and Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity was confirmed when the Royal Astronomical Society witnessed the predicted effect during a solar eclipse. And, there was no Stanley Cup champion declared as the finals between the Montreal Canadiens against the Seattle Metropolitans had to be suspended after five games due to an epidemic of the Spanish flu.

Fast forward to 2019, when The Canadian Business Journal spoke with HH Angus President Paul Keenan and Vice President, Marketing & Business Development Sameer Dhargalkar about the company’s incredible success story over the years as well as its current projects and aspirations for the future.

We’re a Canadian-based firm and we’re very proud of the contributions we’ve made to the growth of Canada and some of the engineering firsts that we’ve been part of in terms of the infrastructure development of this country and others,” 
Paul Keenan
President, HH Angus
Project Development

As part of the overall process of a construction project, architects design a building’s outer shell and then they turn to HH Angus to design and integrate the operational systems and the internal infrastructure, blending the two designs into one convergent finished product. It is the responsibility of the structural engineer to design the skeleton to ensure every component is stable and remains in place. The consulting engineers then ensure everything behind the walls is properly in place, including the heating, cooling, and any specific operational needs the building may have, such as IT infrastructure, security systems, communications, vertical transportation and lighting design.

Although he’s been with HH Angus for 25 years, Keenan is still relatively new to the president’s chair, having taken over from Harry G Angus this past April. The combination of his skills, industry expertise and executive management abilities made him the ideal choice to serve as the day-to-day leader in starting the next 100-year journey.

“I’m the first non-Angus to take on the role. It reflects the maturity of the firm as we continue to diversify while the family component of our business remains very strong,” he says.

Keenan and the entire team at HH Angus have a shared passion and devotion to continue the tradition of engineering excellence and continuing to grow the infrastructure and support of this country and around the world, which becomes more competitive with each passing day.

Reaching the 100-year milestone is a marvellous achievement and a proud milestone for everyone involved, but according to Keenan it’s really just the starting point of the next 100 years with an eye to focusing on the challenges and opportunities ahead. The entire industry has evolved considerably during Keenan’s time as a professional engineer.

“When I first walked in 25 years ago we still had drafting boards,” he recalls. “We’re now two full iterations along in terms of the basic technology of how we deliver the work. The pace and rate of change of communications has fundamentally altered the construction and design business.”

Client expectations regarding timely and efficient deliverables continues to accelerate, which is not unique to engineering or construction but it has certainly deeply manifested itself in this line of business. The engineering fundamentals have remained consistent but the mechanisms to carry them out have become radically divergent.

It is the task of the architect to design a building and then turn to HH Angus as the consulting engineers who design and integrate such commodities as the operational systems and the internal infrastructure.

“An analogy would be that we are the circulatory system – the brains and the beating heart of a building,” explains Keenan. “You’ve got the exoskeleton and the skin, but how the communication flows through the wires and who determines what the temperature is and how to deal with the environmental conditions and what makes a building safe – those are the types of systems that we provide.”

As an example, if dealing with a banking client, HH Angus provides the electrical redundancy – the emergency power systems – to do everything to ensure that the essential data centre of the bank never goes down and that it consistently achieves its reliability targets.

“The costs of a building, typically the mechanical and electrical systems, can come out to more than 40% of the total construction costs so what we do is a good chunk of what that building represents,” notes Dhargalkar.

“With a healthcare building it can be 45% and sometimes it’s more than 50% of the entire cost of the work being done in constructing the building,” adds Keenan.

The process of interfacing with architects to make an energy-efficient building begins on Day One. The architects have fundamental ideas on the massing and the components that will be part of the shell and how the program of the building works together. HH Angus is a part of those early planning stages and discussions to achieve the aspirations of it being a low-energy building, or a Net Zero building and determines how everything can be neatly packaged to achieve the targets expected by the client.

“Oftentimes when you design a building you think about the construction and design of the building that you’ve handed off but we, as mechanical and electrical engineers, more so than any other consultants, can stay with the building throughout its life cycle, which can easily be 25 to 30 years-plus,” offers Dhargalkar. “There are upgrades and helping the building’s owner with such things as energy efficiency and helping them in managing the costs of operating a building.”

Pillars of Strength

Employee retention at HH Angus has always been notably above the industry norm. It’s that type of continuity and commitment to excellence in meeting and exceeding client expectations that has led to the firm being acknowledged by its peers with a number of awards, including the prestigious 2017 Schreyer Award for its outstanding contribution to the work provided on a Montreal hospital and most recently being named one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies earlier this year.

There are three main pillars that Keenan wants to focus upon as the company forges ahead and continues to grow. The first pillar is doing right by the people at HH Angus. The second is aligning the firm’s services with its clients and the third objective is to chart a successful course to be in business for the next 100 years.

“It’s important that we get the right people with the proper skills and talent working for us,” he emphasizes. “For those employees now with us we want to help them develop new skills. I think over 30 of our employees have been with us for more than 30 years and that speaks to the culture of the family company and the environment that has been created.”

Keenan and Dhargalkar are in agreement that HH Angus has a sound reputation for taking the right level of risk on each individual project. The company is known for accepting complex projects that can be challenging and in some cases have never been done before.

“We did the first skyscraper in Canada – TD Centre in downtown Toronto,” points out Dhargalkar. “We worked on the SkyDome (Rogers Centre) and got to work on the first P3 hospital project in Ontario. A lot of firsts have come through but it’s because of our people – we are innately curious.”

Equipped with confidence in their experiential skills and abilities is what orchestrates the professionals at HH Angus to respectfully challenge what a client may initially be thinking because oftentimes there are better solutions, resulting in a more efficient final result and a savings in terms of materials, space and costs.

Over the last 20 years HH Angus has established a particularly strong foothold in healthcare and in the data technical business. As the company has matured so too has the marketplace and as such the diversity potential has expanded in the realm of public, commercial and institutional projects.

“We have intentionally set out to grow other areas that are of commensurate size and feel that we are in a strong position to cope with changes within the construction business. The next few years will see a strong focus on transit,” reveals Keenan.

“The transportation side has really grown for us over the last several years, We’re involved with several stations on the Eglinton crosstown (in Toronto) and we’ve done some of the early design work on a couple of stations for the downtown relief line for the Toronto Transit Commission. We’ve also done airports and bus terminals.”
Sameer Dhargalkar
VP Bussiness Development & Marketing, HH Angus
Angus Connect

A vital component that determines success is the ability to recognize, develop and implement innovative technologies. Significant growth has been achieved over the past five years with the company’s Angus Connect, which provides Information, Communications and Automation (ICAT) Technology consulting to a wide range of industry sectors. This proprietary vehicle drives the planning and design of information, communications and automation technologies to take a client’s project from the conceptual phase all the way through to occupancy and beyond.

“It essentially started in healthcare with the Smart Hospital. Where we differentiate from other mechanical and electrical engineering firms is that we provide the up-front, strategic consulting side for the owners. It has since transitioned over to commercial, hospitality and other sectors as well,” remarks Dhargalkar.

“The way that we think about the information and the idea of a database that is storing the collective engineering information about a project is a fundamental shift at a production level for the business,” says Keenan.

Throughout a wide range of Canadian business industries the disruption of the next piece of technology is without doubt rooted in artificial intelligence. There is an element of the unknown; so much continues to evolve on a constant basis. Keenan points out the necessity for the company to remain ahead of the curve and work closely with their clients to understand how AI will both disrupt their clients’ businesses – and their own – and properly assess the level of support required, which includes updating skillsets within the organization.

At HH Angus dedicated groups have been formed and they are constantly examining various emerging technologies, including building information modelling software and digital twinning.

“We’re looking at artificial intelligence machine-learning aspects and what it means from a design process and using it day-to-day and what kind of value it brings to the client. We’re also looking at virtual reality technology,” says Dhargalkar.

“A big component of all this is partnerships,” adds Keenan. “We’re a fair-sized company but we’re still only 250 people so it’s crucial to find good partners. We’ve got a research project with Ryerson University to explore some of this digital twinning together and I think that’s the future for companies such as ours.”

Looking to the Future

According to Keenan one of the foremost and exciting challenges facing the industry is capacity, with an insatiable appetite for infrastructure renewal and expansion. HH Angus faces the prospect of having a plethora of new projects being put on the table, which means it’s imperative that the team is able to provide solutions to carry out the expanded workload and meet timelines.

“How do we deal with the disruption of other technologies? It all goes back to the talent piece. If we ensure we bring in the right people with the proper skillsets and develop a strong culture it will be successful,” says Keenan.

Within the healthcare sector HH Angus is part of an expansive project at the Royal Columbian Hospital in British Columbia. The firm is also in the process of pursuing two other substantial projects in this space – one on the east coast and one on the west coast. Commercially, the company is working on several large casino gaming and hospitality projects in Ontario.

The constant drive to attain sustainability and implement the most energy-efficient designs reflects upon a direct response in terms of what is important in society but also represents sound engineering principles. Sustainability as a race without a finish line; it’s an ongoing process, constantly improving and seeking new solutions for clients and society as a whole.

“Society and the group around us have moved some of those traditional constraints and so that opens up a world of new possibilities. People are prepared to invest in sustainable designs and low carbon solutions. We want to continue down this path and do the best type of engineering we can do,” reflects Keenan.

“We are fortunate that we have a very strong energy group within the firm. We’ve seen a lot of interest and demand from our clients regarding low-carbon energy solutions such as how we can reduce the footprint for our clients,” says Dhargalkar.

HH Angus continues to challenge technological convention, and encourages employees to envision change by asking questions, fostering creativity, and promoting inventiveness — all with the singular goal of delivering innovative, effective, and efficient design solutions. A robust company that is able to cope with this capacity while being able to withstand challenges and vagaries the market dishes out is essential.

“We want to be able to continue to attract and retain top talent. We have some growth targets and coupled with that is a focus on aligning our work with that of our clients. We want to create additional productivity improvements, which includes technology as well as enhancing relationships with clients. That encapsulates the main focus over the next three to five years,” envisions Keenan. “HH Angus has been able to succeed for 100 years and it’s now beginning work on the next 100.”

Toronto-based HH Angus and Associates is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019, and at the end of May the company announced that Paul Keenan, formerly director of its health division has been named president.

Keenan replaces Harry Angus, the third generation of the Angus family to lead the privately owned firm. Angus remains on as CEO and Chair of the Board.

A Queen’s University grad, Keenan has been with the firm for 25 years and served as director for the past decade. Also, within the past year, HH Angus was selected among Canada’s Best Managed Companies for 2019, an achievement received in its first year applying to the Deloitte program. And last fall the firm captured the Schreyer Award at the 2018 Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards for its work on the CHUM hospital in Montreal.

We spoke with Keenan to discuss HH Angus and where it goes from here.

You’re the firm’s first president not named Angus. What does that mean for the company?
I think it in part means we’re maturing. The firm has grown to over 250 people, and I think that as a bigger company you need inputs from different areas. The family legacy is important and it continues—Megan Angus, Harry’s daughter, is one of the senior leaders in the organization—and although I’m not part of the family. I’ve grown up in the HH Angus way, so we’re maintaining some of that family connection and we’re enhancing it as we go forward.

Describe the HH Angus culture?
We try to maintain the family feel of the business, and with that comes a responsibility to the staff and a social responsibility to the community. Our turnover has been historically very low—we have 40 or 50 employees with over 25 years service—and that longevity and feeling part of a group is
important for us.

What is your leadership style?
My experience here has always felt like a series of careers within one career. I started on small projects, gaining skills and transitioning naturally from project to project with larger challenges and increasing levels of responsibility.

I want to create those opportunities for our people. We’ve got to give them the opportunity to succeed or fail and go from there. At some point we all make decisions, and we need to believe in our decision making process based on the experiences we’ve had. Trust yourself, trust your team, make your decision and then move forward.

It’s important not to get stuck; we need to keep our momentum going.

How does a consulting firm foster creativity & innovation among its employees?
I think that’s a challenge for the entire industry, and we need to move more quickly now, to get from ideas to execution. One of the things we’ve done this year is create an Innovation Hub, which is a forum and a place to gather a range of ideas and have our people practice making presentations and share ideas, and then flesh them out, incubate them and then execute.

How has the firm changed over the years?
Traditionally, mechanical/electrical consulting engineering-led projects had been half of our business, and then the world changed. We did a lot of healthcare-related work in the ’90s and have become recognized as healthcare experts. As that market has matured we’ve responded and entered different areas, for example transit, data centres, and more commercial work. Our energy group, that traditionally has done a lot of industrial work, is focused on more low-carbon, sustainable energy projects.

We also have some sub-specialities, such as vertical transportation, lighting design, and our ICAT group that does communications and consulting around smart buildings. You need to be diversified enough to respond to what the market is telling you.

How will you measure your success?
One of our primary objectives is to continue to be an independent firm. That comes with its challenges, but it also comes with its rewards.

We’ve been on a steady trajectory of growth and fundamentally we need to continue to grow; growth is important to create opportunities for our employees and for the underlying strength of our business. We need to be strong enough to resist whatever economic forces come along; we need to grow geographically; and we need to grow our share of the market and do the kind of interesting work that motivates our people.

Which HH Angus project has impressed you the most?
There are many projects in the history of the firm that are impressive and set us on the path of wanting to continue doing projects that are special and iconic. Personally, the Sick Kids research tower, a 750,000 sq. ft. research building, is iconic in the City of Toronto and more fundamentally is a place where important things happen for the future of this community and this country. 

Canadian Consulting Engineer
June/July 2019 

Link to the original article: https://www.cbj.ca/EMAG/2019/Sep/32-33/

Join us in Montreal on Oct 16 as HH Angus presents “Making a Super Hospital Work” at the Canadian Centre for Healthcare Facilities conference.

As the mechanical, electrical and security design engineers for CHUM, the HH Angus team has unique insight into what it took to successfully deliver the largest healthcare project in North America – the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal. Nick Stark, Marianne Lee and Phil Schuyler, principals of HH Angus and team leaders, will detail some of the key challenges and solutions for this mega hospital project. Conference attendees will also be able to tour public, clinical, mechanical and electrical facilities at CHUM.

Whether planning a small departmental renovation, major redevelopment or infrastructure renewal, there are a number of important questions to ask at the outset. Having clear answers will have a positive impact on the project outcome.

In particular, project phasing can be greatly informed by asking the right questions about existing and required mechanical, electrical and plumbing services in order to arrive at a successful design solution that supports the project objectives, continued operation of the healthcare facility and safety of its patients.

So, what makes a renovation project a success?

Some key markers are meeting the schedule, staying on budget, minimally disrupting operations and having no safety issues.

Since each facility and project is unique, however, there may be additional, more specific considerations that arise.

Scoping it out COPING IT OUT

One of the most important questions is, What is the project scope? At a higher level, What problem/need will the project solve? 

It may be an identified need for redevelopment of a particular area or a key piece of equipment has been failing regularly and funding is now available to address it.

Be aware that the scope may grow beyond the initial assessment based on the requirements of current codes and standards, and existing equipment capacities, among other factors. It is essential to fully understand these impacts and determine how to deal with them.

Conditions specific to the site may dictate changes to the planned scope. For example, there may be a need to run new services into the renovation area from a distribution shaft; replace existing services and equipment to accommodate a renovation, unless alternative approaches are feasible (such as rearranging or reworking equipment to facilitate the increase in load); or phase renovations in critical areas, such as the emergency department, so they can remain operational.

Realize, too, the quality of project work is constrained by three factors: budget, deadlines and scope. A trade-off between constraints is possible but changes in one will usually mean adjustments in the other two to compensate, otherwise the quality of work will suffer.


It’s imperative to identify and mitigate risks in advance as much as possible. A good question to ask is whether there are plans and budgets for the unexpected, such as discovering ‘serviceable’ equipment is actually on its last legs or the capacity of a generator won’t permit additional load. 

One form of technology that can help mitigate the risk of the unknown is 3-D scanning of systems infrastructure, which can greatly improve the reliability of ‘as-built’ information. Scanning is performed within a space to collect ‘as-built’ data and the resulting point cloud is reconstructed into a 3-D model. The model can accurately capture the scanned space and size of services and objects within. This approach works particularly well for plant spaces where services are exposed.

Another way to mitigate unknown risk is by pre-demolition of a space prior to finalizing the design. After demolition of walls and ceilings, the design team can physically view existing services, identify conditions that may not be observable prior to demolition and update documents accordingly. When this is possible, the schedule cost of approximately three to four weeks is often well worth it to alleviate the impact of the unexpected. Other ways to confirm the current condition and capacity of services include review of maintenance records, pipe thickness tests, drain scoping, air and water audits, and metering existing services. Unknowns are always a risk to the budget, schedule and project scope. No matter how diligent the preparations, carrying an allowance as part of the project budget is recommended.


Questions around schedule are also critical: How quickly does the project need to be designed, constructed and in operation? Is there a fixed deadline (for example, driven by financing mechanisms such as the Health  Infrastructure Renewal Fund (HIRF) or Hospital Energy Efficiency Program (HEEP))? How has the schedule been developed? Have representatives been engaged from across the
hospital team? What about the design team? And, depending on how the project is being delivered, is construction team input required?

In building the schedule, it’s important to allow time for considerations such as long delivery equipment items, after-hours work, proper infection prevention and control, and construction phasing. If phasing includes multiple phased occupancies of various areas, time should also be allotted for testing, adjusting, balancing and approvals from authorities having jurisdiction at the conclusion of each stage.

Other scheduling-related questions include: Are plans in place to meet required  procurement timelines and processes? Are requests for qualifications and/or proposals or tenders being released through a procurement department? Is the facility posting for  competitive bids? If so, does the schedule  account for the required bidder response times?

Engaging a design team experienced in healthcare renovation will greatly assist in arriving at reasonable and reliable answers to these questions. The team will also need to understand future plans for the facility. For example, if replacing boilers and the five to 10-year plan includes building an addition,  consider whether reasonable allowances can be made in the boiler project to facilitate future expansion. Sometimes spending a few extra dollars now can save on future capital and operating costs.


Answers to the preceding questions will inform the establishment of the project’s key principles; in other words, the most important factors driving the project. When faced with a difficult decision during the project, these principles will serve as a guide for making decisions. The principles may be driven by budget, schedule, patient experience or a combination of these, plus other factors. Whatever is identified as key principles, share them with the team to assist in setting  expectations and defining the scope.

When key principles are established, the sum of the parts may not lead to the outcome originally envisioned. For example, getting things done quickly does not always lend itself to the lowest cost; off-hours/overtime work may be required to meet a compressed schedule. A well-worn axiom sums up this challenge: All successful projects require sufficient time, money and quality. If one is missing, there better be lots of the other two.


Construction phasing — the general sequence in which the renovation work needs to be  performed in order to meet project requirements — is a culmination of addressing all the foregoing issues. Phasing is developed by considering factors such as schedule,  departmental operations, hospital operations, infection prevention and control, and budget.

The earlier construction phasing is established, the better. For a departmental renovation, for example, the ideal situation is to shut down the entire area; however, this is often not possible due to operational constraints, so phasing becomes critical.

When establishing phasing, consider how different phases will affect existing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and information technology services. These services often do not respect a renovation project’s physical boundaries. For instance, ductwork supplying one area may continue through to a completely unrelated area but the renovation may impact both. If the team includes multiple design disciplines and professionals, encourage the architect to engage the engineers early and often in the phasing planning to help mitigate some of these risks.

In the early stages of multi-phase projects, execute enabling works for later phases. For example, leave valved/capped connections for extension of medical gases; rough-in junction boxes/empty conduit; allow for proper raceways; and consider placement of any new equipment to permit easy access to expand in a future phase. These simple steps can help ease some of the challenges of building a project over multiple phases.

Minimizing disruption to operations is typically one of the most important factors in a healthcare renovation project. Some schedule-friendly approaches include seasonal replacement of infrastructure (for chiller replacement, schedule construction in non-cooling months; conversely, schedule boiler replacement in summer) and the use of pre-fabricated equipment to assist with overall schedule and phasing/turnover.


If the initial project scope doesn’t include infrastructure upgrades, it’s important to assess the equipment serving the renovation area and clearly understand its life expectancy and operating costs. While the budget may not allow for it, investigate if spending a little more now (from the capital budget) can reduce future operating costs.

And while looking into the future and thinking about operating dollars, consider the facility’s master plan.

Can this current renovation reasonably accommodate parts of future planned renovations?

Those accommodations could include purchasing additional capacity for particular equipment, leaving space for future equipment in a location conducive to expansion or choosing modular equipment that can be readily expanded.


It’s essential to understand the impact of current codes and standards on the project. The design team can help sort through which activities and replacements should be undertaken versus those that must be done. Understanding how codes and standards relate to the project is critical as they can potentially have a major impact on the project scope and, accordingly, the budget and schedule as well. 


For the best chances of delivering a successful project, it is important to ask the right questions. In particular, clarity around the project’s scope and problems it addresses is vital. Determine phasing and related impacts early. As much as possible, identify and mitigate risks in advance. Finally, engaging a design team with verified healthcare renovation experience is a valuable asset in achieving these goals. 

Published in the Canadian Healthcare Facilities
Summer 2018

Kim Spencer, P.Eng.

Jeff Vernon, P.Eng.