ENV SP Spotlight: Stephanie Dalo of AECOM
Stephanie Dalo is a professional engineer in Vancouver, British Columbia, with experience in the structural inspection and analysis of municipal and provincial infrastructure. Her civil infrastructure work has included bridges, culverts, dams, roads, wastewater treatment structure, water reservoirs, stormwater retention basins, noise walls, waste management structures, and other projects.
ISI had an opportunity to connect with Stephanie to learn more about her work, and experience using Envision.
Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI): Tell us more about your current work and pursuits.
Stephanie Dalo (SD): My work with AECOM has spanned over 7 years. In addition to my work, I am pursuing a Masters of Engineering Leadership (Urban Systems) at the University of British Columbia. Through this program, I collaborate with faculty, government, and industry experts. Some of the key elements of this exciting program include exploring major ways in which urban systems provision and performance impact society; learning about the linkages between the environment, health, quality of life and economy; developing long-term investment plans and alternative analyses; applying systems theory to sustainability and resiliency; and applying principles of engineering economics.
(ISI): What drew you to your field of work in the first place?
(SD): I was fortunate to grow up in places with treated water, maintained roads, managed wastewater, distributed power, and well-maintained sewers. In my early teens, I began to question who is responsible for all of this. I realized that infrastructure touches the lives of everyone, and that good infrastructure creates cities that thrive. That became my passion and led me to my career as a structural engineer.
After working as a structural engineer for 4 years, I started asking myself ‘why’ I am designing these structures. To me, it wasn’t just about doing the project right, but also about doing the right project. I started learning about sustainability, but I did not feel that I was utilizing this concept in my projects. There was always a question of whether my clients were interested enough to include a thorough sustainability assessment. I wanted to follow my passion so I switched my focus from structural design to how people can plan, design, construct, operate and maintain infrastructure in a holistic way… in a way that authentically balances environmental, social, and economic considerations.
(ISI): What would you say has been your biggest career challenge thus far?
(SD): Getting engineers more engaged in conversations about sustainability. Planners, policy makers, and architects are leading the conversation, but engineers also need to be at the table to discuss how to best design these systems.
(ISI): What has been your proudest career moment to-date?
(SD): My proudest moment was the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Meadowlily Footbridge, a heritage bridge in the City of London, Ontario. The historical and sentimental value of this bridge meant a lot to the local residents. The notion of entirely replacing the bridge drew significant protests. So, despite restoration being the more costly option, the city prioritized rehabilitating it to match the original design as best as possible.
High quality public engagement ensured that this piece of cultural history was not erased. At the start of the project, there were no plans for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. However, since the project went well and the locals were so pleased with it, the ceremony was arranged. The mayor said a few words on the day that it was officially reopened to the public.
(ISI): How did you learn about Envision?
(SD): While working as a Structural Engineer at AECOM, I began to grow increasingly aware of all the lives I touch with the work that I do. While I felt proud of my work, I recognized that there was more I could do to make my projects sustainable. I began reading and researching sustainable infrastructure and was invited to give a guest lecture to graduate students at the Western University in London Ontario about Reducing a Project’s Carbon Footprint and Adapting to Climate Change. One of the senior engineers at AECOM saw that I was very passionate about sustainability and referred me to the Envision Framework. As soon as I learned more about Envision, I realized it was a tool that I wanted to apply to my work.
(ISI): Why did you decide to pursue an Envision credential?
(SD): As an advocate for sustainable development, my objective is to consult decision makers on how to implement principles of sustainability into infrastructure planning, design, construction, and operations & maintenance. My goal is to reduce project risks through increased transparency, stakeholder involvement, inclusive practices, innovation, and leadership. I plan to use the Envision Framework on my projects because it offers a consistent, consensus-based framework for assessing sustainability and resilience in infrastructure.
(ISI): How are you advocating for the use of Envision?
(SD): I have been working with the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) to bring more exposure to the Envision framework and inform engineers across Canada on how they can use it. The framework provides a common understanding that allows owners, architects, landscape architects, planners, operators and constructors to set higher performance goals for projects and to collaborate and communicate on achieving those goals.
In November 2016, I was invited to sit on the CSCE’s Sustainability Assessment task force. This task force was developed to evaluate the challenges and opportunities of the ISI Envision Framework, identify gaps, and support continuous improvement.
(ISI): What are some of your favorite hobbies and interests?
(SD): I really enjoy practicing yoga. It helps me stay grounded, mindful and present. I also love camping and hiking. Being outdoors helps me connect with nature and my surroundings. I am also somewhat of a music nerd. While I appreciate the classics, I love keeping up with new music.
(ISI): What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
(SD): I play guitar and have a small two-piece band called Archives. I play rhythm guitar, keyboard / synth and sing. I also am writing a TV show with a friend. We are serious about it, but we are also having fun. We just want to write something that is entertaining, adventurous, suspenseful, and of course, funny.