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The Engineer: It’s all who you know

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

June 4, 2021  By David Heska, P.Eng.

If you’re like me, the stay-at-home measures have allowed for additional time to kick back and enjoy Netflix or Disney Plus. Recently, I was watching Lord of the Rings and Bilbo’s speech to his party guests made me pause and reflect. He says, “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”  I’ll leave the interpretation of that statement to the philosophers, but I would like to take this column to explore the importance of knowing people. 

For our regular Glass Canada readers you are already somewhat familiar with one of the window replacement projects I’m currently working on where new double-glazed windows are being installed at a large single-storey facility. The drama opens with a cast of five characters: the client, the engineer, the general contractor, the glazing contractor and the window manufacturer. In this production, I’ll be acting as the engineer. The design is complete and three different but similar glazing systems have been specified. Through a public procurement process the low-bid contractor was selected and the contract awarded. The general contractor is a middle-income man with a button-up shirt. The glazing contractor has ripped jeans and a rusty truck. The actress, representing the window manufacturer, is a well-known professional, highly respected in the industry. So how will this play out?  

Act three begins with the engineer, client, general contractor and glazing contractor getting to know one another at the pre-construction meeting. They have never worked together and the general contractor indicates that the shop drawings will be submitted in one week and mobilization will occur in early June. Notably absent from the scene is the window manufacturer. 

Shop drawings are prepared by the glazing contractor and the engineer returns comments that many items are not in accordance with the contract specifications. Anchor and fastener information is missing, penetrations through the sill membrane are shown where they are not permitted and interior air seals are discontinuous. A second set of shop drawings are produced with most of the comments unaddressed. The spotlight then turns to the engineer who is on the phone with the well-known window manufacturer.  They are discussing a different project where shop drawings have just been approved with very similar changes. 


Act four begins with a conference call between the engineer, general contractor and glazing contractor.  The mood is tense and the contractors indicate that the window manufacturer has told them that the requested changes cannot be made. Then a long, drawn-out silence. How does the engineer respond?  He knows that the changes can, should and will occur. He has completed numerous past projects with these revisions. But both contractors are unaware of the relationship between the engineer and the window manufacturer. 

At this point, you can probably guess which half of the room was liked less than half as well as it deserved.

I’m happy to report that the story ends well, shop drawings are now approved and production is underway. May this be a little reminder for us all that honesty and relationships matter.  It’s all who you know.

David Heska, P.Eng. is a director with WSP’s building sciences team in southwestern Ontario. He oversees the operation of the Hamilton, Kitchener and Windsor offices. David has been involved on window simulation projects as well as the design and replacement of windows. He can be reached at David. 

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