Watt Consulting Group

Providing Excellence While Shaping Western Canada’s Towns and Cities

Watt Consulting Group began operations in 1983 with a core group of people dedicated to servicing their clients. With the mission of providing excellent service in civil and transportation engineering, geomatics and project management, the engineering consulting firm that was initially chiefly focused on the Alberta market grew quickly. Watt Consulting Group has expanded significantly over the last couple of years, adding three new offices, and is now serving all of Western Canada by helping to build towns and cities, one project at a time. However, as the company evolves, their commitment to their clients remains stronger than ever.

Watt Consulting Group offers civil engineering and consulting, surveying, transportation planning and engineering services. Their capabilities seem endless, but their primary market is in land development. Watt Consulting Group works directly with municipalities as well as with developers who are building new communities: residential, office, retail and mixed-use developments. These projects transform the landscapes of some of Canada’s most well-known cities.

One of these many recent land development projects is the University District community in northwest Calgary. A large amount of land on the west end of the University of Calgary was put aside for future expansion of the campus, but the university ultimately decided to instead develop the land as a mixed-use site with office, residential and retail uses. The development phase formally launched on October 1.

“It’s within Calgary’s inner city and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for a developer to create something special for future residents and neighbouring communities. It’s a sustainable, high density development that will be well served by transit and these characteristics support many of the City’s land use and transportation policies that have been approved in the last few years. It’s one of those projects that make work enjoyable” says Watt Consulting Group’s President Bruce Nelligan.

The impact of this exciting development on the City of Calgary will not only be significant, but also long-term. It could take more than 15 years to complete and eventually house 13,000 residents. The project emphasizes thoughtful urban planning, and upon completion will feature a variety of housing options and an abundance of pathways and green spaces. The well-planned complete community will be built with a firm outlook on the future, required for a growing city such as Calgary.

On a similar note, Watt Consulting Group recently finished providing transportation planning support for the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) in Calgary’s Currie Barracks community, a site that holds National historical significance. A large quantity of land in the historic area has become available as a mixed-use site that 15,000 people will call their home. Currie Barracks was first designated for military use in 1911. Eighty-four years later, in 1995, the Federal government announced the closure of CFB Calgary. The Currie Barracks development is now known as one of Calgary’s urban villages, as developers continue to retain its historical significance while the community grows and modernizes. In fact, Currie Barracks’ approved plan was the first in Canada to receive Gold certification from LEED-ND (Leadership in Environmental and Engineering Design for Neighbourhood Development).

“Having the opportunity to work on both of these projects has been quite identifying. It’s going to help change and shape the City of Calgary. I think a lot of people think of Calgary as a low-density city with a lot of sprawl, but these projects will help to change that view by adding two large compact communities within the inner City” Nelligan adds.

In addition to Currie Barracks, Watt Consulting Group has also been involved in other projects of historic significance. In the geomatics field, they are currently conducting a laser scan for Calgary’s City Hall, a designated national historic site that was originally completed in 1911.

“The City has engaged our services to do a laser scan survey of Old City Hall as part of the significant restoration of this important civic heritage site. They need to know exactly how it looks now, sandstone block by sandstone block, so that they can replicate it when they put it together again. Using the latest in surveying technologies, we’re providing extremely detailed surveys of the entire structure, both interior and exterior. Right now we’re in the process of indexing each sandstone block. We’ve got the laser scan of the exterior of the building and we’re providing detailed information to the project team,” states Mike Szarmes, Manager of the Geomatics Department.
Because Watt Consulting Group has proactively incorporated sophisticated technology, they are able to service niche markets and work on exciting projects such as this one, as there are few other companies that offer laser scanning.

Providing exceptional client service

With impressive projects under their belt, it comes as no surprise that the 32-year-old company has grown considerably in the last couple of years, adding new locations, expanding the scope of their services and transferring over to new ownership. The company now has a total of four offices: Calgary, Lloydminster, Victoria and Kelowna. The three new offices (Lloydminster, Victoria and Kelowna) complement each other well and have allowed the company to expand their services and their client base.

As an example, the new Lloydminster office, ideally located in a city that straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, is focussed on serving municipal clients of both provinces.

“We had an opportunity to set up a branch office in Lloydminster with a focus on providing geomatics services. We wanted to target the private sector as well as municipalities on both the Alberta and Saskatchewan side of the border. The office has been successful and the work load has been growing . adds Mike Szarmes.

Though the focus of the new office was survey-based, Watt Consulting Group was soon providing civil and transportation planning services for a land development project.

“And on the flip side, we’re now providing surveying and civil engineering services to our Victoria office which typically focuses on transportation planning work. There is now a web of service integration here between the four offices,” Szarmes says.

Watt Consulting Group certainly isn’t deterred by business evolution. As their portfolio has grown with the addition of their new locations, they are able to market different types of work while exposing their growing staff of over 90 to different experiences. The Kelowna and Victoria offices have targeted municipal transportation planning work, whereas the Calgary office has been more focused on private sector engineering.

“We can now market municipal planning in Alberta and vice versa, marketing private sector work in British Columbia,” Nelligan says.

Even in these times of drastic changes, Watt Consulting Group has remained true to their mission to provide excellence and great customer service in all of their projects. From an overall perspective it’s really about the client service. The size of the company lends itself to a group of people that can service clients exceptionally well compared to some of the larger groups in the city.

“We find that if you exceed your clients’ expectations, they tend to become repeat customers and also refer us to new clients,” Nelligan explains. “Right now we’re in the process of transferring the ownership of the company to the next generation. With the transfer has come the same philosophy of hiring good people to do good service.”

“There isn’t one group that is selling the services and another group that is delivering. It’s one and the same. There isn’t an administrative-only force to the company. The people the clients get to know and become comfortable with stay involved,” adds David McElhanney, Director and Interim Manager of Engineering. “The company is able to offer a range of services and the staff has a capacity to handle larger, more complex projects while at the same time servicing the clients as if we were a smaller company. You get the benefits of the smaller company’s personal touch with a larger company’s capability.”

Watt Consulting Group’s personal touch is maintained throughout each and every project at all levels of the company. This differentiating factor, which has been an integral aspect of the business since its inception, is noted and appreciated by clients. As the company continues to grow and expand, it’s a guaranteed commitment that never changes.


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