On the job: The art of doing it right

Tim Lazaruke in front of Centre Block building
Photos by Justin Van Leeuwen | Renderings courtesy of Tim Lazaruk

As the Design Technology Manager for the Centre Block Restoration Project, Tim Lazaruk uses technology to create intelligent data being leveraged by experts involved in bringing this century-old Canadian icon up to modern safety, environmental and accessibility standards. 

Every now and then, Tim Lazaruk ( Architectural Technologies '11) has to pinch himself to make sure his dream job is not actually a dream. In spite of all the years and effort he’s invested to get where he is today, he knows there’s really no way he could ever have dreamed this up.

A former Fine Arts major who went back to school — to SAIT — to re-educate at the age of 38, Lazaruk is now an Associate and Design Tech Manager at HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm in charge of a high-profile historical restoration project on Parliament Hill.

As Tim told LINK writer, Julie Sengl, the pathway to what could well be the pinnacle of his professional career had been largely uncharted. A solid roster of technical skills combined with proactive decision making (also known as a leap of faith), and some fortuitous timing cleared the way for an incredibly fulfilling work life.

Centre Block building from the front
BIM front view of the Centre Block, the main building of the Canadian parliamentary complex on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. 

The Centre Block Restoration Project on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill is the largest and most complex heritage building restoration project in Canadian history. How did you end up being part of it?

I was working as a design technology specialist for an architecture firm in Calgary at the time and learned about the Centre Block project when they began canvasing employees to find out who would be willing to relocate to Ottawa if they submitted the winning bid.

My wife and I had been discussing a transfer to Ottawa for her work, so I put my name in the hat. My Calgary employer didn’t end up being selected for the project, but we decided to take a leap of faith and make the move anyway for my wife’s career. I didn’t have any specific opportunities in Ottawa at the time, but I was confident that my background, my education and my experience would lead me to something great over there.

I was well-positioned after spending years working in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry on BIM (building information modelling) software platforms and workflows, in addition to the foundational training I received at SAIT in Architectural Technologies. I knew that HOK had won the Centre Block Project so I did some research and started reaching out to people there. It was good timing. There was an opportunity on the ground for a position and one thing led to another. And now here I am, working as a design technology manager, overseeing a staff of BIM specialists supporting this truly remarkable project.

What’s it like to be part of such a high-profile project?

The Centre Block restoration is unlike anything else. It’s unique in almost every way: it’s historic; iconic; Canadian innovation at its absolute best. And it’s incredibly complex. This is really a combination of many projects, each with a lot of moving parts involving collaboration on a massive scale across all disciplines. In comparison to new commercial projects I’ve been a part of, this one is about pushing limits further and creating new and leaner, more efficient ways to design and collaborate using everything technology has to offer as a precedent for today, and as far beyond as we can imagine.

And it’s important work. We’re restoring the pride of Canada. As a Gothic Revival style building the Centre Block is interesting enough, but when you consider the context that your freedom as an individual is founded on what goes on in there — it’s both an honour to be part of this, and a big responsibility to get it right.

This project sounds like it might be the pinnacle of anyone’s career. Where do you go from here?

It is a career topper and everyone on the team definitely treats it that way. Nobody underestimates why they’re here. I know that the exposure I’ve had on this project — the opportunities — are an enormous gift.

As for where I go from here, I really don’t think about future career options too much lately just because my head is in this project and overflowing with everything that’s in front of me. And honestly, I’m at a point now where I’m always learning while contributing, and it’s that kind of growth that I want to make the most of and be present for. HOK offers a lot of support in employee career development which I feel fortunate to benefit from and assist with by helping others on my team. There are so many aspects of this role that are beyond where I expected I’d be back when I decided to re-educate at SAIT. It’s taught me not to make presumptions, or put limits on where things can lead.

There are countless opportunities working in the area of architectural design technology. HOK has so many diverse and innovative projects globally and the skills in architectural technology transfer internationally in many respects. Building codes change from region to region which requires some additional training for those with more of a focus on building science, but the tools and workflows used in the BIM world are largely constant (depending on the project requirements) wherever you go. And with more open source applications being developed and shared, the community is collaborating regardless of location. It’s an exciting time in the industry. Looking back, choosing the architecture program at SAIT made the path possible for me today, and wherever it may lead in the future.

A new perspective

Tim Lazaruk gives us a glimpse of the world of BIM and how the software aids in his field of work with renderings of the Centre Block of the Canadian parliamentary complex. 

Centre Block building from angle
Centre Block rendering on computer
Centre Block rendering
Centre Block rendering
Centre Block Rendering
Centre Block rendering
Centre Block Rendering

This story is an extended version of the original print version in the Spring 2021 issue of LINK — Raw, risky and full of joy.