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On Approach with Three Amazing Engineers at YVR

For our February On Approach segment we talk to three amazing engineers who work at YVR and were integral in the construction of the A-B Connector,

More than 24,000 people come to work at YVR every day, and every single one of them contributes to all the amazing that happens here on Sea Island. We like to track down some of these people, ask them a bunch of questions and learn all about what they do in our On Approach segment. This month we talk to three amazing engineers who work at YVR and were integral in the construction of the A-B Connector, which will connect B.C. proudly to the world for decades to come. Meet Bowinn, Ali and Tracy:
Engineers at YVR
From left: Ali Istchenko, Tracy Nihei, Bowinn Ma and Anita Yen

How long have you worked at YVR and what does a day-in-your-life look like?

Bowinn: I started at YVR in 2012 and all of my projects since have been A-B-related. Some days are just 12 hours of back-to-back meetings; some are spent in the office doing paperwork; and some days are spent out on site all day looking for deficiencies, making sure issues are being resolved, and sometimes even doing some manual lifting and hands on work. Most days are a mix of all three.

Ali: I started in 2008. There is no typical day and the ratio of site time versus office and meeting time is constantly varying.  Wherever we are, our job is to keep the designers, contractors and airport operations moving. The best way to do this is to immerse yourself in their worlds so we can best facilitate their success. 
Tracy: I’ve worked at YVR for longer than most would think – I started as a co-op student in the summer of 1999, returned June of 2000 and was hired as a full time employee in September 2006. Like Ali and Bowinn, and most project engineers/managers, a day-in-my-life is never the same though there is usually the common thread of a day full of meetings/site visits (until 4pm) followed by another full ‘day’ of work related to the project.
When did you first start working on the A-B Connector project?

: Since day one at YVR. I started on projects to prepare the terminal for the A-B Project and then I transitioned into the A-B Connector Project just in time for demolition. 
Ali: I started early in the project, working on the service and tenant relocations being done as part of the early and enabling works in 2011.  Tracy wins the award for most number of years on the project though - I think she's nearing five!
Tracy: Ali’s right - I started with the A-B Connector in January of 2010 in the early stages developing the gateway strategy. The A-B Connector has been my main project since the planning stage.
What were a few of the most exciting moments and/or biggest milestones for you?

Bowinn: Seeing people walk through the site without their personal protective equipment for the first time – it meant the space was almost complete and you didn’t need hard hats or steel-toed boots. Another memorable moment was when we heard lounge music in the space for the first time after opening. It’s a very different sound from the usual whining of drills or sound of people banging away.

Ali: Getting the old building fully separated from the portion of the terminal that was to remain operational was a big milestone.  Getting tenants, passengers, bags, electrical and mechanical services out of the way and then separating the structures was incredibly complicated and took nearly as much time as the construction of the new building did.  Seeing the first aircraft pull up to the new gates was also a big moment - that's when the building really came to life.

Tracy: The biggest moment is of course the opening of the main A-B Connector Rotunda – this is the point where all the years of hard work pay off and you get a moment to celebrate with your peers and see the public enjoy the space (see photo at top of story). There are smaller moments along the way as well, usually when something that required a lot of coordination and teamwork come to fruition, for example:
  • Start of heavy demolition – On this project that milestone required 10 separate subprojects, which all required extensive coordination between them … plus you get to see big machines knock down the old building.
  • Steel truss delivery – Month of detailed coordination between a number of stakeholders (internal departments, contractors, regulatory and government agencies, etc.) required to clear the path and ensure minimal impact to the operation.
This is obviously a very complex project but what’s one thing that you think might surprise people?

: We actually had to un-retire someone to work on the relocation of a communications ductbank because it was so old. This is just one example of the complexity of updating a building from 1968.
Ali: It's not done!  We still have 6 months of renovations and clean-up to do before we can say we are totally complete the project.  We still have three more gates to open! I think people would also be surprised by how long and complicated the process of relocating tenants and services was.  The project sits right in the middle of all the main service routes into the Domestic Terminal.  It took hundreds of individual system shutdowns to complete the project while keeping the terminal fully operational.  Dozens of tenants – office and retail – had to be moved to new homes before any work could start.  

: A few things come to mind. What it looked like before the reno!

The main project site had 400 plus workers at any given time during the majority of 2014 and surpassed 1,100,000 manhours of labour. The site worked 6 days a week, day and night, from Nov 2012.

What’s next (besides hopefully some sleep)?

: The rest of A-B Connector. We’re only done Stage 1!

: Six months of renovations and clean-up in order to fully complete the project scope.  This is the less glamorous work of renovating the existing facility where the new building ties in to bring it fully up to building code and in line with the airport's functional and aesthetic standards.

: Finish the project - and hopefully a mental break before the next project including more expansion and upgrades to the domestic terminal. 


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