BCIT grad masters the science of green building

This story was originally posted in BCIT’s Alumni News

“I love my job because of the challenges we face,” says BCIT Masters of Engineering grad, Nichole Wapple. “The engineering problems we need to solve are always very different, and even projects that seem similar have their own unique issues.”

Wapple is now a project manager at Sense Engineering, a North Vancouver-based firm that offers building enclosure consulting for restoration and new construction projects, and capital planning services.

“We help owners understand the condition of their buildings, and plan for repairs and upgrades over the buildings’ life,” Wapple explains. “For new buildings, it’s important to select durable, high-performance products and systems from the start, to optimize the performance over the life of the building.”

Some of those elements can be groundbreaking. Take, for example, the new Surrey Operations Centre and Works Yard. Wapple was involved in the design and construction for the site, which is pursuing LEED Silver certification. The building aims to be forty percent more energy efficient than a typical operations building. Some of the features Wapple got to work on include green roofs and heat-reflective roofs, and curtain wall glazing to make extensive use of natural light.

Wapple’s work is important to building owners. “We help keep the rain out and the heat in, while making sure the building looks good,” she says.

It’s also an important field for the province. There’s a move – at both municipal and provincial levels – toward greener building practices. “In terms of where things are going, the Vancouver Building By-Law and provincial codes are constantly becoming more stringent with energy requirements, and the industry is responding by continuously improving construction best practices,” says Wapple. “These jobs aren’t going away.”

The job isn’t just secure, it’s satisfying. When asked what her career goals are, she says, “I want to keep pushing for more energy efficient buildings, and ultimately providing an end result that building owners and occupants are excited about.”

Wapple is in this role after completing her Master of Engineering at BCIT, having gradated from the Building Science program in 2014.

“It’s currently the only program of its type in the western half of the country,” she says. “It had great technical and academic instructors who are incredibly knowledgeable about what’s happening both locally and internationally. They also have instructors who are well experienced and working professionally within local industry. Everything you learn is incredibly relevant to what’s going on in the industry right now, and where things are headed.”

Wapple is quick to encourage anyone curious to consider engineering. “You get a great mix of office work and field work,” she says. “There are tons of exciting opportunities.”

As for the lingering impression that engineering is a man’s profession, she has this to say: “At the company I’m working for, more than 50% of our team is made up of women. Our principals will be the first to tell you we make great engineers. I think women should go into engineering if they’re passionate about problem solving, exciting careers and making a difference.”