June 16, 2014 We sat down recently with Herman Kwok, 2013 Master of Engineering graduate, to ask him about his experiences in the Building Science Graduate Program.
Can you tell us about what you are currently working on with your Building Science Master’s degree from BCIT?
I have recently joined a company called Normac, located in downtown Vancouver, as a Depreciation Report Coordinator and Building Science Technologist. Normac is the premier provider of Depreciation Reports, Insurance Appraisals and Building Science services for Western Canada. At present, I am currently working on depreciation reports for strata properties in the Lower Mainland. It involves site inspections to review the condition and lifespan of the properties’ main components and also building financial models to aid strata councils in determining proper contingency reserve fund allocations to ensure that all anticipated expenses can be met.
Would you say the graduate program positioned you well for this position? If so, how?
It most certainly did. For every property I visit on a site inspection, I can apply my building science knowledge in classifying different components within the buildings and the materials utilized. With knowledge derived from the comprehensive building envelope hands-on laboratory course, I am able to recognize the level of workmanship on particular projects done to the buildings and identify signs of failure. This ultimately assists in generating more accurate depreciation reports.
What did you expect from the Building Science Master’s program at BCIT? Is it what you expected? If not, how is it different?
Initially, I was anticipating this program to bring the understanding of the performance and durability of different applications in various building types simply through equations and representations. However, I quickly realized there was much more to it. I had opportunities to hear acoustics at work in a building, do mock-up installations, and see building science applications at construction sites.
How did you decide to choose this program? What inspired you?
Ever since I was young, I have always been fond of architecture and building designs. When I realized there was a field called building science, I became very curious in how building science can shape the architectural design of a building and vice versa. They may often work hand in hand, without compromising either the aesthetic look or the performance of the building. This possible integration inspires me to pursue further understanding of building science. Furthermore, this program was second to none in Western Canada.
What challenge did you have to overcome to get here?
I think the most challenging task was completing my project within a limited time frame. Once the topic was chosen, extensive amount of planning was required and the schedule had to be on time. I also had to be sure that the experimental design would work, so mock-ups and preliminary testing were essential. I then needed to specify the materials and start the assembly. From planning the design to acquiring the supplies, and constructing the model to collecting data, a lot of dedication and diligence was needed. However, I must state, through this project, I learnt a great deal and had tremendous fun doing so.
What in your background prepared you for this?
I think my background in materials engineering really helped prepare me for this. It was not as difficult to recognize why some building materials work better than others and why some tend to fail prematurely. Additionally, my passion for building designs and being observant certainly aided in the realization of my goals.
What do you connect with most in this work?
I connect most with the identification of components and failures during site inspections. I believe the Building Science program at BCIT has definitely built a great platform for me to prepare myself for the real-world situations.
What do you hope to achieve?
I hope to bring my knowledge in building science to Normac’s building science department as it expands and produces more warranty reviews and condition assessments. I am passionate in spreading the knowledge of building science to the clients, mainly home owners, who are concerned with their property investments.
Where do you see your career growth from here?
Normac gives me the opportunity to gain on-site experience and apply my practical knowledge and skills. I am visiting numerous types of property and examining diverse components in buildings. Since the deprecation report is strongly associated with the real estate industry and material costing, it is a great path that could lead to life cycle assessment of buildings.
BCIT has a reputation for being intense. Is that the same experience you’ve had? Tell us about that.
Yes, during class you are given vast amount of information and principles to absorb. However, the program is structured so that not only you will learn the science behind buildings but also learn how it is being applied in the current industry. At the beginning, pieces of information might be scattered everywhere, but you will quickly realize that the layout of the lectures will help you put every together into great use. You will experience hands-on projects and build simulation models all through real industry standards. It guides you to build your knowledge on top of the materials you have learnt before, and the result is very rewarding. The final project may also push your limits. In my case, specifying your original design and materials, down to the nuts and bolts, to construct a test wall of my own.