Student helps Stantec Tower rise above the crowd in building design

Edmonton's newest skyscraper will be a healthier workplace thanks to recommendations by chemical engineering graduate student.

Future workers in Edmonton's massive new 66-storey Stantec Tower will benefit from health and wellness recommendations made by a University of Alberta chemical engineering graduate student.

Nirwair Bajwa worked with the global professional services consulting company for infrastructure and facilities projects last summer as part of the university's Sustainability Scholars program, conducting research on implementing standards developed by WELL, a certification program that emphasizes building design and management for human health and wellness.

He had limited knowledge of the standards when he started but he went beyond the call of duty, using what he learned to become Canada's 51st WELL accredited professional.

"This was very new for me, but I came out of my comfort zone," he said.

After doing the research, he recommended choosing a food vendor that promotes nutritious options and a cleaning company that uses non-toxic products and safe practices.

The company is now working to implement those recommendations-and offered Bajwa a part-time job from January to June as he wraps up his degree.

"I'm excited that the work I did was meaningful to them," said Bajwa.

He is the first student in Sustainability Scholars, a program that sponsors U of A graduate students for summer research projects, to complete a project for a community partner. Before 2017, all projects were for the university and the City of Edmonton.

Bajwa teamed up with Vanessa Zembal, another student in Sustainability Scholars, whose research focus was achieving WELL certification for the 29-storey Edmonton Tower, which was completed last year. The two students were doing such similar projects, they figured it made sense to share what they learned. They presented their findings in September at the Alberta Sustainable Building Symposium, winning the student poster prize.

Bajwa's work with Stantec has opened up new career options for him. He's exploring a budding interest in energy modelling-creating virtual models to predict building energy consumption-in a study group he started with an architect from Stantec, a U of A mechanical engineering alumnus, and two other graduate students.

"I think the Sustainability Scholars program is a turning point for my career," he said. "I think if I didn't get this opportunity, I may not have been able to explore these options."