OSPE Clarifies Comments in The Toronto Sun

In the recent interview by Christina Blizzard, published in the January 12th edition of the Toronto Sun, Ms. Blizzard approached OSPE asking if the engineering design of the Nipigon Bridge was flawed.

OSPE did state that it was too early at the time to determine the cause of the bridge buckling. As the discussion progressed, OSPE stated that although one of the General Contractors Ferrovial Agroman, is based in Spain, their partner, BOT Construction Group, is a competent Canadian company and both have the necessary experience and knowledge to do the job effectively. OSPE expressed that the engineering design is not the only explanation for the failure of the expansion bolts.

Throughout the conversation, many scenarios were explored, including the fact that various construction materials were sourced from different suppliers and any one of those materials could have been faulty or may not have met the design specifications indicated by the design engineer. Other possible explanations for the failure included installation issues or damage to the materials during transportation, neither of which has been identified as a cause yet.

What OSPE does emphatically state and advocate for is that Ontario should move toward a Qualification Based Selection (QBS) procurement process for infrastructure projects. Specifically, for the selection of architectural and engineering services for public construction projects. QBS is a competitive contract procurement process whereby consulting firms submit qualifications to a procuring entity (owner) who evaluates and selects the most qualified firms, and then negotiates the project scope of work, schedule, budget and consultant fees with these qualified companies.

Establishing a procurement process based solely on price, especially for complicated projects, is frayed with problems and runs the risks of firms being awarded projects they are unprepared for or with which they have difficulty fulfilling the contract requirements. (Recall the issues with the clearing of ice and snow on winter roads in Ontario, highlighted by the Auditor General in an earlier report). But OSPE would like to express that the discussion about the justifications of a QBS procurement process was never discussed in a context specific to the Nipigon Bridge scenario.

OSPE Board Member, Steven Rose, P.Eng., P.Geo., shares, “This bridge failure underscores the importance of engineering design and the need to recognize the environment in which engineering structures are expected to perform. The failure is an obvious disruption to an important transportation corridor, which forms part of the TransCanada Highway system.”

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Reading now (end september 2016) the report explaining the causes of the failure, the Statement from OSPE about the issue, and re-reading this article about the “Clarification” about the comments on the Toronto Sun, as Spanish engineer I cannot help to still feel very dissapointed. These clarifications may explain what Mr Perruzza should have said or even what he meant, but what he actually said (“The engineering company that was hired to do this is based out in Spain, so do they have the experience and knowledge to design a bridge in the cold weather we have in Canada that they don’t have in southern Europe?”) requires not a “Clarification” but an explicit apology.
    A journalist may not know the difference between a Design Engineering firm and a Contractor (and their respective roles in a Project), and even if the errors had been done only by engineers coming from whatever other country, such an statement is ashaming. OSPE should publicly apologize.

    1. Rafael Rodríguez

      Reading now (end september 2016) the report explaining the causes of the failure, the Statement from OSPE about the issue, and re-reading this article about the “Clarification” about the comments on the Toronto Sun, as Spanish engineer I cannot help to still feel very dissapointed. These clarifications may explain what Mr Perruzza should have said or even what he meant, but what he actually said (“The engineering company that was hired to do this is based out in Spain, so do they have the experience and knowledge to design a bridge in the cold weather we have in Canada that they don’t have in southern Europe?”) requires not a “Clarification” but an explicit apology.
      A journalist may not know the difference between a Design Engineering firm and a Contractor (and their respective roles in a Project), but someone like Mr Perruzza should know. And even if the errors had been done only by engineers coming from whatever other country, such an statement is ashaming. OSPE should publicly apologize.

      1. Hi Rafael – thank you for taking the time to share your comment. Given the facts presented in the article, I can absolutely understand why you would feel the way that you do. I apologize that you’ve been put in a position where you feel any sense of discouragement about OSPE’s role as an advocacy body for the engineering profession. I do, however, want to reiterate that the context of the attributed quotes published in the aforementioned article are not indicative of the conversation that took place between Christina Blizzard and myself in January. Ms. Blizzard is a professional and an expert in her own field, so I by no means intend to question her style of writing, however, when doing any interview, statements can easily be misconstrued, misprinted and conclusions unintentionally drawn.

        While I did confirm that the company that was hired to manage the construction of the bridge is based in Spain, I assure you that the quote in question was strictly repeated as the hypothetical question of debate that was being widely circulated at the time. I proceeded to answer the question by expressing that Ferrovial Agroman was not alone in this project. My response to the question noted that the company was, in fact, partnered with BOT Construction Group, a competent Canadian company, and that Ferrovial has been an active part of other Canadian infrastructural projects, including Highway 407.

        OSPE is a strong proponent of not only international collaboration, but also diversity and inclusivity in the engineering profession. It is these differences which create new innovation and improvements in design when all parties share knowledge, experience and ideas in engineering. OSPE has also been strongly advocating for a Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) procurement model where all submissions would be evaluated on overall value, instead of the current model which is solely based on lowest price. — Sandro Perruzza

      2. Thank you very much for the answer, I do really appreciate it. I also should have imagined that someone in your position would never say something like that, the way they put it in that article. Thank you very much, and I wish all the best to you and the institution you represent.
        Rafael Rodríguez

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