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EllisDon PM loves challenge of big projects

Don Wall
EllisDon PM loves challenge of big projects
ELLISDON - EllisDon project manager Diana Demmers is the reigning Vancouver Island Construction Association U40 Person of the Year Award winner.

The Vancouver Island Construction Association’s reigning U40 Person of the Year Award winner has gained a reputation for being a champion of women and young people in the industry.

But listening to her speak in forceful terms about the possibilities that await young women who might consider careers in the engineering field, it’s clear EllisDon project manager Diana Demmers is just getting started as a recruiting advocate.

Demmers started as a co-op student at EllisDon in 2015, joined as a full-time employee in 2016 and worked her way up to become project manager, currently involved in some $600 million worth of construction projects. 

Working on the University of Victoria Student Housing and Dining Project, which was designed to achieve LEED V4 Gold and Passive House standards, Demmers mentored engineering students through the UVic Engineering Co-op Program, adding to a volunteer resume that includes working as a research assistant analyzing Canadian engineering school recruitment material as well as maintaining an open door policy for EllisDon colleagues who are seeking advice.

The 2023 VICA award citation referred to the recipient’s “potential for leadership” and commitment to the “advancement of the construction industry” through volunteering or on projects.

It’s important to set aside time to mentor young people as an investment in their futures and for the good of the industry, Demmers states.


Demmers stays in touch

“No one ever has time for anything in this industry,” she said. “But I think at the end of the day, it’s important to invest in people you have on your team and the co-op students.

“They got the opportunity to build something on campus, which they were very proud of. Mentoring them, I still keep in touch with some of them as well.”

Having worked at EllisDon for nine years, Demmers has a good understanding of the firm’s staffing, systems and software so she also is eager to “show the ropes” to others, she said.

“You’re always on your toes. It’s always interesting and there’s always new problems arising every single day. There’s something new to solve and so you’re never bored and so I’d say that’s definitely what keeps me going within the industry is that I always have new problems to solve.”

The two new buildings at UVic capture waste heat using heat recovery ventilation devices, used mass timber sourced from a B.C. supplier and employed custom combinations of passive and mechanical cooling strategies.

“We had a really good team and everyone was motivated,” said Demmers.

“There wasn’t a lot of kind of conflict or anything within our own team. We’re all going to do whatever it takes to make sure the project is successful.”

Demmers said she is technically inclined and has loved challenges since she was a small girl learning her multiplication tables in math. She grew up in a household where her father, a carpenter, frequently talked about Passive House standards, and eventually earned several degrees, including one in environmental science. Now, her latest project is the $2-billion Surrey Hospital and BC Cancer Centre, a fully electric hospital.

“I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve chosen to move back to Vancouver.”


Diamonds in the rough

But Demmers knows there are legions of brilliant young girls like she was in elementary and high school who right now are not receiving the encouragement they should to get into the sciences and engineering. That’s her next goal, to extend her reach as a volunteer to impress upon them that an engineering career can be exciting and fulfilling.

“Women in general are inclined to not pursue the STEM field,” said Demmers.

“The recruitment of young people and young women into the industry starting at a younger age, I think that’s the most important piece.

“Talking to young students, including young women, about what it could look like, that you can have this career if they want to, it’s possible. So that piece is super important. I would like to be more involved in that.”

Follow the author on X/Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

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