High Performance Buildings
Alumnus Story — Mohammed Abdelaziz
After graduating in 2007 with a degree in mechanical engineering from Alexandria University in Egypt, Mohammed Abdelaziz held increasingly senior positions for engineering consultancy firms in the Middle East and Africa. He worked on some 250 projects in the residential, recreational, educational, commercial and health-care sectors, contributing his expertise as a senior mechanical engineer. His focus was often on designing fire fighting, HVAC and plumbing systems to meet codes and standards.
A decade into his professional career, Mohammed decided it was time to return to school.
“I wanted to build better communities and be part of the move to sustainability,” he says. “Codes and standards can take time to catch up to present innovations in building design. UBC interested me because of its progressive reputation in sustainability and building science, and this program in particular got my attention because so many of its instructors are leaders in industry. It’s not just talk – they’ve shown what can be done, and as a student, you can learn from them about how to implement your ideas in real-world building projects.”
An integrated approach to technical and business knowledge development
Mohammed says that the progression of the technical classes provided students with a strong foundation for scaffolding new learning. “The initial classes start with methodology, and from there they add on new knowledge in architecture, energy modelling and green building design that culminates in some capstone projects where you are modelling a building.”
He explains that the first capstone project involved suggesting improvements to an existing building so it could meet specific energy requirements. The second project asked students to propose design solutions to meet high performance standards for a building in a climatic-challenging location.
About 40 percent of the classes in the Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) in High Performance Buildings are taught through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School, and the mix of business and technical classes was a definite attraction.
“I had worked in industry for many years and had experience in management and working with clients,” he says. “Yet there is always more to learn. The classes were very diverse and covered topics including leadership, financial management and operations management. It gave me the perspectives and business knowledge to better understand client goals, which I think is crucial when you’re working directly with clients and encouraging them to invest in better, healthier buildings.”
Sustainability Scholars Program offers valuable internship
Mohammed was selected to be one of a handful of Sustainability Scholars, a paid internship that matches students with sustainability partners to work on specific initiatives. Over the summer, he researched strategies for remediating building envelopes to both increase energy efficiency and improve the experience of building users. His work included an in-depth literature review and research on success stories in other parts of the world, following which he presented options for achieving the desired goals.
Landing a job before graduating
Beginning in October, Mohammed began approaching companies he was interested in working for. “I had a lot of positive feedback from organizations about the MEL program. Many companies see hiring an MEL graduate like getting two for the price of one – you’re getting a senior engineer and a senior business professional, all in one person.”
Before graduating, he began working part time for the AME Consulting Group, a mechanical engineering consultancy that specializes in sustainable design. In January, he was offered a full-time project management position.
“My work through the MEL and the Sustainability Scholars program gave me valuable local work experience, and working part time enabled me to interact with a market driven by sustainability,” he says.
Mohammed does have advice for new MEL students: “Work hard from the first day onwards. Don’t look around and wonder what might happen – the program’s structure enables you to be the best version of a professional you can be. You’ll also find that the campus and local industry community is very welcoming of people with initiative. There’s a lot of support, which means you can go far if you work to build your professional network and commit to sharing what you can offer others.”
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