Integrity and Innovation

Tulloch Engineering

In 1991, a small Engineering firm called Tulloch Engineering began operations in the town of Thessalon, Ontario. The population of tiny town was little more than 1200, but that didn’t stop the company from expanding.

Initially, the firm started with only seven employees, who largely focused on completing cadastral survey projects and small municipal engineering assignments. By 1995, the company had grown to 15 employees and the quality work it was doing earned Tulloch a reputation that secured a lead surveying role in the largest First Nation land survey in Ontario’s recent history, The Mississauga First Nation Indian Reserve near Blind River.

Not only did Tulloch Engineering perform strong in this role, the company was the lead firm, heading up a consortium of five other surveying firms. The company also made good use of a new technology – Global Positioning System, or GPS – which was in its pioneering days at that time.

By 1996, Tulloch Engineering had 20 employees. This was the year the Ontario Ministry of Transportation privatized, and Tulloch recognized this as an opportunity, predicting that the Ministry would outsource most of its work to consultants. The company was able to gain experience and knowledge of the Ministry by hiring three recently retired MTO workers. In 1997, the firm landed its first job with the Ministry, offering contract administration services; Tulloch Engineering was now a company of 40 employees. In April 2001 the team saw further expansion, opening a new office in Huntsville, Ontario; in 2003, Tulloch opened a third location, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, offering cadastral survey services and contract administration.

Tulloch now offers its expertise in the fields of transportation, renewable energy and transmission, mining, land development, municipal infrastructure, geomatics engineering, civil engineering, geotechnical engineering, materials testing, environmental studies, and contract administration.

In 2005, the expansion to Sault Ste. Marie proved very strategic, when the new Prince Wind Farm was approved for construction on parcels of land just north of the City. Being contracted to help design, survey, and construct this wind farm was a milestone for Tulloch Engineering, because it started the company on an exciting journey into the world of renewable energy projects. “We were in the right place at the right time,” explains Mark Tulloch, Tulloch Engineering’s Chief Operating Officer. “We didn’t even know what a wind farm looked like, but there was going to be one north of the Sault; it was Northern Ontario’s first wind farm and we just happened to be the local engineering firm that the owner called upon to help with the design and the contract administration. That was a two year project for us. It remained Canada’s largest wind farm for quite some time. It got us our start in the renewable energy industry which continues to be one of our core markets today.”

“That was roughly from 2005 to 2007 that we worked on that project, and for the next couple of years the Ontario government wasn’t sure about the viability of wind energy,” explains Mark. “So we kept our name in that marketplace, but it wasn’t really until 2009 when the Ontario government once again approved another series of wind farms. In 2009, they issued six more wind farms in Ontario and again we had the fortune of working on one of those wind farms, which is the Greenwich Wind Farm near Thunder Bay. In 2010 the FIT program for Ontario was launched and all of a sudden there were 147 renewable energy projects… that’s been one of our strong areas and continues to be one of our core business areas to this day across Canada.”

At one point, Tulloch was responsible for the civil design of the largest wind farms in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. “That market sector is usually tied up with large engineering conglomerates, like the Hatches, the Stantecs, and the Genivars,” says Mark. “We feel like we can compete with any one of those companies on the civil design, surveys, environmental monitoring and contract administration. We’re quite proud to be in the renewable energy sector.” Tulloch Engineering has since completed numerous utility sized wind farms and solar farms as well as a variety of hydro projects.

As far as the Ministry of Transportation was concerned, by the year 2007, if someone were to drive down a North Eastern Ontario highway construction project, it would most likely be a Tulloch job, responsible for completing over 19 jobs annually for the Ministry. “We routinely run around 18 to 20 jobs a year for the Ministry of Transportation, which is quite significant,” explains Mark. “Our competition during that time would run up to a handful of jobs, so we had a large market share.”

In 2008, Tulloch Engineering opened another location in Sudbury to provide survey services along with environmental services such as natural science studies. In January 2011, the firm expanded once again, this time to Parry Sound, and in August of 2011, into Ottawa, where this office focuses on a relatively new technology called Mobile LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Scanning. “We believe that [this technology] will revolutionize how engineering surveys are conducted,” explains Mark. “There are only a handful of these systems in the United States and we were the first company in Canada to purchase a Mobile LIDAR System that has a specific focus for transportation engineering; we have worked with The Ministry of Transportation for the last year to demonstrate that Mobile LIDAR scanning meets all of their requirements.”

“The key benefit of the technology is the amount of data that is collected and the speed at which it is collected,” says Mark. The first contract for the MTO that was completed with Mobile LIDAR technology was a survey of 85 kilometres of highway that stretched across North Western Ontario. Amazingly, using older methods of surveying, a job of this magnitude would take over six months to complete, but with the new Mobile LIDAR System it took Tulloch Engineering only nine days to complete the topographic detail and collect more than the standard required amount of data. “Conventionally,” says Mark, “you would capture approximately 1000 points a day; this technology captures 600,000 points a second. There are literally millions upon millions of points that are used to represent the ground’s surface, and it’s all collected in a magnitude of time shorter than conventional surveying.”

The Mobile LIDAR System is now becoming the preferred method of surveying in the United States, and Mark Tulloch believes that within the next three years it will be the preferred method of surveying in Canada, with Tulloch Engineering pioneering the use of a brand new technology.

According to Mark Tulloch, the most satisfying part of the job is being able to use the diverse resources and skill sets that the firm has in-house to help a customer solve a problem. “The more unique the problem, the better challenge it is, and so we find satisfaction in being that go-to consultant when there is a problem that the industry can’t currently solve. We like thinking outside the box and trying new things.”

This drive toward innovation has led Tulloch Engineering to find an uncommon niche as far as the industry is concerned. The firm is able to provide a unique combination of geomatics and civil engineering services, and in fact boasts one of the most robust geomatics departments in Eastern Canada. When it comes to designing anything from a small subdivision to a highway, the project always begins with geomatics.

Tulloch Engineering also prides itself on offering truly comprehensive customer service. The job ends when the client is 100 percent satisfied with the work, and feels that the job is done. This is one of the key drivers behind the company’s ongoing success, and indeed, a great deal of the firm’s business comes from referrals and repeat customers who simply will not go to any other engineering firm. “One of our key reasons for success is personal interaction with our clients, trying to figure out exactly what the problem is and not just provide a turn-key, cookie cutter solution,” says Mark Tulloch. “We like to really figure out what our client needs, and then provide a unique solution.”

August 21, 2017, 7:55 AM EDT

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