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Hatch incorporates sustainable design and construction methods for its clients.Provided

When Montreal’s ongoing transit expansion required new and modified bridges for its trains, Hatch Ltd. aquatic biologist Carol Zastavniouk went to work. “When you’re putting up a new bridge, you are automatically affecting valuable fish habitat, either temporarily with the structures used to build it, or permanently with the bridge itself,” she says.

“So, for these kinds of projects, you have to quantify exactly what’s there originally, quantify exactly the impact you’re going to have, and then try to mitigate that as much as possible in the design and the construction methods,” Zastavniouk explains. “Once you calculate that, even with all our mitigation measures, this is how much impact we’re still going to have, then you compensate for it. That’s where building a new spawning ground for the fish comes in.”

Kathleen Vukovics, regional director, environment and sustainability, at Hatch, still encounters people who express surprise that the engineering firm employs fish biologists. “We do get that a lot, actually,” she says, “and it’s one of the reasons we’ve started to call ourselves a professional services firm, which is more reflective of our diverse skills beyond engineering. The fight against climate change and protection of the environment underlies everything that we do at Hatch.”

Over the course of her 17-year career at Hatch, Vukovics has seen awareness of environmental impact, and the need to look at it holistically, grow exponentially from all sides. “Our clients, who have to meet new regulatory requirements and want to be known as environmentally responsible companies, demand it,” she says. “Our employees, especially the new generation, want to be part of the fight against climate change. And we have complete support all the way up to the board and CEO.”

It’s become a huge area of growth for Hatch, Vukovics continues. “We’re all about solving our clients’ toughest challenges, and that means helping them navigate a changing climate.”

Vukovics, whose own expertise lies in human geography – the study of the complex interrelationships between people, place and environment – began her career consulting with Indigenous communities about the impact of hydro and wind projects in Ontario. Now she is involved in Hatch efforts to help clients realize what changes would be most impactful for them.

“The last few years we’ve been using life-cycle analyses, looking at the whole footprint of a project, from extracting materials out of the ground all the way to disposal at the end of life, to know what makes the biggest impact,” says Vukovics. “It’s not always immediately apparent – you can select less carbon-intensive materials for construction but find they’re not overly energy efficient. Carbon accounting and energy modelling of a development or asset can help our clients make the least carbon-intensive choices.”

Or to see how best to compensate for environmental disruption, especially at the level produced by Quebec’s largest public transit project in the last 50 years, Zastavniouk says. “We’re building a new spawning ground for walleye and sturgeon just north of Montreal, near one of the bridges being modified for this project.

“It’s a big project itself for the fish,” says the biologist, chuckling, “and for fish people like me.”

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