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Innovation Award: DST Consulting Engineers Inc.

The company has earned a stellar reputation for taking on tough tasks and delivering outside-the-box solutions.

Being on the leading edge of award-winning innovation and technology is commonplace for DST Consulting Engineers Inc..

The trophy case is getting a little crowded at the Thunder Bay geotechnical and environmental engineering firm, now celebrating its 40th anniversary.

The company has earned a stellar reputation for taking on tough tasks and delivering outside-the-box solutions.

DST is a firm of consulting engineers, scientists and contractors specializing in environmental and civil engineering work.

It began as a Thunder Bay branch office of Dominion Soil Investigation in 1971 where it grew to be one of the firm's most successful offices. By 1993, the Thunder Bay office was purchased by Mike Fabius and renamed DST Consulting Engineers.

DST is a three-time winner of the Northern Ontario Business Awards having won Company of the Year honours in 1995 (26-50 employees) and again in 2006 (51 + employees).

With branch offices in Ottawa, Sudbury, Kenora, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, Winnipeg and Edmonton, the company boasts a combined workforce of 120.

This past summer, the firm was recognized by its professional peers by winning a second consecutive provincial award of excellence from the Consulting Engineers of Ontario.

This most recent award was based on DST's use of a patented shope stabilization method at the Garden River First Nation, east of Sault Ste. Marie.

The company successfully stabilized a 500-metre section of roadway that was experiencing ongoing land sliding and cracking by 'nailing it together' using DST's patented Soil Nail and Root Technology.

Known as the SNART system, it involves installing thousands of steel bars into the bank to bind the soil together and anchor the slope in place. The bank can be stabilized without disturbing the natural vegetation or aquatic life.

The technique was first applied more than a decade ago to deal with an eroding bank on the Kaministiquia River in Thunder Bay.

"Using the soil nail technology we don't need to reconstruct (a river bank), there's less pollution with dust, carbon emissions and sedimentation into the river" which can affect a fragile eco-system" said senior principal and partner, Dr. Myint Win Bo.

Providing 'green' engineered solutions to highly complex and technical challenges is the hallmark of DST.

The company's creed is all about providing 'unconventional solutions to complicated challenges.'

The priority on every project is to brainstorm to find a practical, cost-effective solution for the client, said Bo.

"We always look for the best solution to a project and how we can minimize the client's costs, but also justify how to minimize the environmental impact."

This approach is easily transferrable to the mining sector where infrastructure development in environmentally sensitive and remote areas is paramount when working with First Nations.

Their expertise as soil experts was evident in another project.

While performing a geotechnical investigation for a Thunder Bay retail project, DST came up with an innovative time- and cost-saving solution for a proposed store development slated for a site containing deep clay soil.

The firm installed vertical wick drains to speed up the ground improvement process that helped eliminate post-construction settlement of the building.

DST shaved months off the construction time and saved the developer $1 million.

Among DST's consulting services, the greatest activity is in geotechnical and environmental fields, said Bo. "It makes sense because this is a new era with people's concerns about the environment and safety."

While the majority of the company's work is centred in Ontario, there are ongoing mining and environmental projects in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

"Ontario has all kinds of clients ranging from the Ministries of Transportation and Natural Resources, various mining companies like Goldcorp, and much First Nations work," said Bo.

Future plans in the company's five-year outlook are to establish an office presence in all the provinces.