Kate Ulmer, a Victoria-based structural engineer at Herold Engineering Limited, has won the Vancouver Island Construction Association’s (VICA) 2019 Outstanding Woman in Construction Award.
The award is presented to a member who is an ambassador for women in construction and has made contributions to the VICA community or elsewhere on Vancouver Island through volunteer work or business accomplishments.
Ulmer says she is happy to have received the award.
“It’s nice to be recognized by my peers in the industry,” she said.
Ulmer was nominated for the Outstanding Woman in Construction Award by Lee Rowley, a structural engineer in Herold’s Nanaimo office.
“I’ve known Kate since she joined the firm and ran a three-person office in Victoria,” said Rowley. “Since then the office has grown to almost 20 people.”
He said Ulmer is a team player and a great leader.
“Thanks to her hard work and ability, she has achieved so much while she has been at Herold,” Rowley said. “It was very easy to nominate her, a real no-brainer.”
Including Ulmer, there were nine nominees and three finalists for Outstanding Woman in Construction.
The other finalists were Jayna Wiewiorowski, program and development coordinator of Women in Trades Training at Camosun College in Victoria, and Kathy Price, construction administrator at Knappett Projects Inc. in Victoria.
Mary Van Buren, president of the Canadian Construction Association, presented the award to Ulmer at a gala dinner that took place at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort in Victoria.
This is the first year for the VICA awards, which recognize the work that association members do to build and regenerate the universities, hospitals, historic sites, airports and condominiums on Vancouver Island.
The awards, which are open to all association members in good standing, are judged by a panel of industry professionals.
“We are proud to showcase and celebrate the contributions and achievements of VICA member companies with our inaugural awards,” said VICA chief executive officer Rory Kulmala in an announcement. “This year we saw over 50 exceptional submissions. The 2019 VICA Award recipients have demonstrated their commitment to our industry and local communities by embracing quality, innovation, and client satisfaction.”
Ulmer is a graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology, where she completed a two-year civil engineering diploma, and the University of British Columbia, where she earned a civil engineering degree.
She has been a professional engineer for 10 years.
“I find civil engineering to be the most challenging branch of engineering,” Ulmer said. “I like puzzles and solving problems and I enjoy seeing the concrete results of my work.”
Recently completed projects that Ulmer designed include the addition to the University of Victoria Continuing Studies building, and the campus of the Brookes Education Group private school in Colwood, a suburb of Victoria.
Projects that Ulmer has designed that are under construction include an addition to the departures lounge at Victoria International Airport; an expansion of Royal Bay Secondary School in Colwood; and a reconstruction of the south jetty at Esquimalt Graving Dock (a dry dock where the hulls of ships are repaired and maintained).
In addition, Ulmer has worked on designing seismic upgrades of many B.C. schools.
“Vancouver Island lies in one of the highest seismic activity zones in the province and there are many seismic high-risk schools here,” she said.
The B.C. Ministry of Education’s Seismic Mitigation Program was established several years ago to make schools safer by minimizing the chances of structural collapse in the event of an earthquake.
“The seismic upgrade program was developed by B.C. engineers, with a focus on building performance, not the BC Building Code,” said Ulmer. “That means the seismic guidelines are not prescriptive.”
Ulmer said she enjoys working on the school seismic upgrade program.
“The buildings need to be made stronger but without harming the aesthetics of the original structures,” she said. “As a result there are numerous constructability challenges that need to be figured out.”
In addition to engineering, Ulmer is an enthusiastic supporter of community engagement.
In addition to being on the board of Victoria Civic Heritage Trust, she has been a board member of VICA for 2 ½ years.
Looking ahead, Ulmer hopes to see the continued growth of Herold Engineering.
“I’ve been a principal since October, 2018,” she said.
Ulmer also looks forward to the ongoing evolution of the engineering profession in B.C.
“I hope to see more modular designs, more integrated design and construction and more women entering – and staying in – the profession,” she said.