Quebec-based multi-disciplinary consulting engineering firm Desjardins Expert Conseil offers services in building mechanics, building electricity, and civil engineering, and is a dynamic team that works to analyze and understand the real needs of its customers.
Desjardins Expert Conseil (DEC) is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, having been founded in 2000 by owner Jean Desjardins. Mr Desjardins has 33 years’ experience as a practicing multidisciplinary engineer, building an enviable reputation in the three disciplines of engineering offered by the firm. Mr Desjardins is proud to say his two sons have followed in his footsteps, his eldest working as a mechanical engineer, and his youngest studying mechanical engineering at the university ETS in Montreal. Mr Desjardins spoke to The Canadian Business Quarterly recently to discuss the humble origins of the firm, some of DEC’s key projects, and the impressive growth that has seen it become one of the most sought after engineering firms in Quebec.
“It started off in 2000,” Mr Desjardins explains. “I worked as an engineer with my father initially, when I graduated, and he was a consulting engineer himself. So, I’m second generation engineer [and] my sons are third generation engineers.”
Gaining valuable experience working with his father, Mr Desjardins decided to start his own company after his father’s retirement in 2000, embarking on a new beginning with Desjardins Expert Conseil.
“I started in my bedroom, and seven years later we were six in the office. My wife said I was taking up too much space, so I moved out and got into an office in Laval. Now we’re 45 employees with an 8,000sqft facility, and we’re very much in demand and very happy at the progression we’ve had.”
The company is Quebec-based, but has extended its footprint significantly over the years, now having the capabilities to work in Alberta, Northwest Territories, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
“We are doing projects right now in Ottawa,” Mr Desjardins says. “As we’re speaking, we’re doing a 20-storey and an 8-storey multi-residential building in Ottawa, and we also have an indoor medical Cannabis growing facility project in New Brunswick.”
As a multidisciplinary engineer, Desjardins Expert Conseil specializes in three key disciplines of engineering: mechanical building systems, electrical building systems, and civil/storm water management engineering.
“Buildings are like the human body. In the human body you need heat, you need to cool, you need water, you need to drain, you need to see, and you need energy. The building has those same needs, so mechanical engineering will take the plumbing and the HVAC – the heating, the cooling, the ventilation – and treats the building as such so a human can live inside and be comfortable.”
It is then the job of the electrical engineer to power to all the equipment that provides these essential heating, cooling, lighting and pumping services to the building, by connecting to a power grid.
“The civil engineer will connect the sanitary and storm sewers that’s coming out of the building to the municipal services. We have to do storm water management around our buildings meaning we have to provide storm water retention and control the flow to the city storm sewers. So that’s how all these disciplines work together.”
The firm had a record achievement in 2019, ending the year having completed 159 projects, which for a staff of just 45 is a significant mandate. The firm has continued to excel into the New Year, with a number of big projects in Quebec being signed at the start of 2020.
“[The range of projects] could be from due diligence on a building, that would be a smaller mandate, or we could have a project where we’re doing 700 units in a 45-storey multi-residential high end building,. It really depends on the project itself and the scope of work that’s asked of us.”
The firm benefits greatly from being a private company, staying away from the typical scrutiny of penny-pinching investors. As the firm’s owner and founder, Mr Desjardins is very conscious of how DEC’s success is generated.
“The administrative and human resources department is the secret to maintaining a healthy company, because the people that work in the company have to be well treated with the upmost respect, they have to be recognized for their contribution to the success of the company they are in fact the reason why the company has success. The people that I work with are not employees, they are my family and my friends and I treat them as such.” The small turnover of staff in the firm’s office is testament to how well my philosophy works.
The firm is successful because it has a dynamic team that follows a strong vision and objectives, making sure the customer is happy. A happy customer is a returning customer.
A number of DEC’s buildings in Montreal would be instantly recognizable to residents of the area, including the M9 Phase 4 in Old Montreal and a project currently in progress, Centra Condo, a 45-storey building across from the Bell Centre arena, and Birks Hotel that won the gold medal for the Architecture Hotels & Resorts at the International Design Awards for the renovation of a patrimonial building.
“There’s a lot of new demographics happening in Montreal, because a lot of new immigrants are arriving from everywhere and creating a big demand for residential areas, so the condo and the rental business in Montreal is booming, and for that we’re building taller towers, because the city has to densify their lots, because there’s no more land.”
This is an exciting development for DEC as engineers. Previously, taller buildings were more common in Toronto and Vancouver, but now that they’re being built in Quebec, engineering firms are getting more involved.
“The aesthetics of buildings are always an issue in cities. When you get into a city you see a building and you want it to be appealing. The cities are very critical of the architecture that creates the envelope of that building, and that creates issues with mechanical engineers.”
Ventilation, in particular, has become a big issue. With fresh air needing to come into buildings, there must be grills installed, which need to be on the side of the building and are not usually pretty. This requires more creative thinking from engineers in order to unite functionality and aesthetics.
DEC has become a pioneer of an emerging industry arising from the legalization of cannabis in Canada. With a new demand for products derived from CBD and hemp, the firm has been involved in a number of projects over the last four years furthering research in this area.
“We have been involved in over 20 projects of inside growing facilities for growing cannabis, and these facilities we also include spaces for transformation of the plant, meaning that we extract oils from the plant to sell it to industries like pharma, the food industry and the cosmetic industry.”
One industry issue surrounding this process is the increasing lack of agricultural land to grow on. Mr Desjardins sees the solution coming in the form of high-rise buildings, not for living in, but for growing in.
“The planet is producing more humans, so we need places to house them. We’re using agricultural land for that, so we have to do agriculture vertically. If we grow inside, we don’t have to worry about storms, because we’re controlling our environment. We can grow year round, even in cold climates.”
These changes are necessary as a way of rethinking the way we cultivate and grow our food, and the company is heavily involved in this process. Mr Desjardins is particularly proud of the company’s involvement.
With its impressive growth and leading role in an emerging industry, it is little surprise that Desjardins Expert Conseil has become one of Quebec’s most sought after engineering firms. Find out more about DEC by visiting www.genieconseil.com.