Andrew Pratt has seen a lot in his thirty-plus years in the mechanical engineering profession. As Principal with Salas O’Brien’s Toronto-based team, he balances hands-on design work with team development and leadership to ensure the highest quality solutions for clients and the broader community.

What do you enjoy most about the mechanical engineering discipline?

In mechanical, you design the systems that run through the entire facility, so in a way you’re responsible for the whole building. Additionally, almost all the projects my team and I work on are new builds or complete renovations with unique aspects and custom requirements, like performing arts centres, hospitals, and community centres. It’s satisfying to have a hand in the entire picture and to be able to start from scratch and invent something. There are not a lot of jobs where you can do what we do.

I also enjoy the constant learning that is required with this job. The world is changing, and we are not designing how we were five years ago. Decarbonization and the requirement to make our buildings more energy efficient are making us change the way that we design our systems. If you’re not adapting and learning you’re falling behind.

Andrew Pratt (far right) with Salas O’Brien leaders at the Toronto office.

What does our tagline “engineered for impact” mean to you?

In the day-to-day, I think about the value we bring to our clients. We are helping them achieve really important goals and bring a lot of experience that should help them feel confident in having us as a partner. For example, the owner of a performing arts centre wants it to be built within the available budget, look good, be comfortable, and provide acoustics that allow the performers to excel. HOW we achieve these goals should not be something the owner worries about given our prior experience and outcomes with this type of building. We are confident that the owner will be very happy once it is complete.

Bigger picture, the work that we do has a significant impact on our environment and the lives of the people that either use the building or the products that are made within it. There’s a bigger purpose here, where we’re playing an important role in making our society better.

Is there a specific project that you’re most proud of?

I take a lot of pride in the finished product and find aspects about each project that stand out. Hospitals, laboratories, and pharmaceutical projects are technically challenging and once they are complete, they have a direct impact on the health of the public.  It is nice to know we’re making people’s lives better.

The performing arts projects and sports stadiums are fun because you get to experience them when they are finished. We just completed the major renovation of the Rogers Centre in Toronto where the Toronto Blue Jays play and our team got to enjoy opening day. It is fun to be able to take in the game and see the space we helped design. I also got to see Wagner’s Ring opera series multiple times from the control centre of the Four Seasons Centre while testing to ensure all of the systems like temperature and sound were operating correctly. A pretty cool experience.

What advice do you have for aspiring mechanical engineers?

Know how to work with others. This is a really team-based profession that requires a lot of collaboration and partnership to find innovative ways to meet client needs. You have to be willing to give 105% and deliver on your tasks with precision.

It’s also important to take initiative. While this is a very supportive environment, you can’t expect your supervisor to teach you mechanical engineering. Use the resources provided by the company and around you to put together a self-learning plan with the goal of learning as much as possible as fast as possible. Take the opportunity to learn something new from each task that you are given. For example, if your assignment is to lay out heat pumps on a floor plan, take the time to research what types of heat pumps there are, how each type works, where each type is used, and the design criteria that should be followed for that type of heat pump. We are always learning in this job.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Salas O’Brien team?

I joined Salas O’Brien as part of the Crossey Engineering team in early 2023. On our own we had 150 staff and now as part of Salas O’Brien we have a team of 3,350+ people that we can share knowledge with to help make us and our work product better. The ability to collaborate and learn from our colleagues is exciting to me.