When it comes to construction megaprojects, few can rival Lou Zoldan’s track record. His work on Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Los Angeles’ Staples Centre, Vancouver’s Convention Centre and the University of Alberta’s 53,700-square-metre (578,000-square-foot) Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, have made the project manager a specialist in super-sizing.
Today, Zoldan (Construction Engineering Technology ’82) is overseeing NAIT’s biggest-ever capital project –
the Centre for Applied Technology. He spends his days poring over blueprints, managing the designers and building teams, and meeting with future users and occupants in an effort to keep things on budget and schedule.
Now less than a year until the building opens as the new home to 5,000 students (and starts graduating our future sonographers, architectural technologists, business managers, and all manner of experts that keep this province running) Zoldan is characteristically calm. With the 51,600-square-metre (550,000-square-foot) centre, he’s in an environment that’s familiar on many levels.
After more than three decades, Zoldan’s back at NAIT, studying plans, getting his hands dirty gaining knowledge and experience. This, he tells us, couldn’t make him happier.
When did your interest in construction begin?
When I was a little kid, I would cover a board with nails in the basement. My dad was a carpenter here in Edmonton. So, starting at about age 10, I’d work with him in the summertime. I was accepted into NAIT’s Construction Engineering Technology program straight out of Grade 12.
Your CV reads like a sports fan road map. What is the coolest project you’ve ever been involved in?
The Staples Centre. We had an incredible team. In fact, the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles, awarded us with the Building Team of the Year award.
I always get a tickle when I watch the opening for Hockey Night in Canada when a Canadian team plays in L.A. There’s a night-time helicopter shot that shows the logo illuminated on the roof of the arena. The first thing I do is turn to my wife and say, “I did that!” And she replies, “Yes, I know. You’ve told me 80,000 times.”
"With experience comes intuition."
Did you become a fan of the L.A. Kings?
I quietly cheered for the Kings because I had to be a good corporate citizen. But I’ve always been an Oilers fan.
How did your past construction megaprojects prepare you to oversee NAIT’s biggest capital project?
You really need to have lived and experienced what it takes to complete a project of this size. There are so many moving parts and so many unknown risks – like change requests from end-users, or outside [development] influencers like the City of Edmonton, trades and sub-trades that may run into labour problems and, of course, the weather.
How do you stay organized and not feel daunted by it all?
I don’t know. With experience comes intuition. You’re able to synthesize, almost naturally, what the priorities are of any particular day or week. And you’re able to see and react to things, manage challenges and issues, because you’ve gone through it before.
My wife, Jennifer, asks me the same thing and then ends with, “Why can’t you remember to take out the trash on Thursdays?”
What impact do you think the centre will have on NAIT and Alberta?
I can’t think of a better time for this building to be brought to life. We want to have resources available for the next turn in the economy. It takes a lot of time to nurture and instruct students. So they will get the experience now and, when the market requires it, Edmonton and the surrounding area will be ready to respond.
What are some of the “wow” factors in this building?
One that stands out is the “glass box.” It’s a space that’s around 1,200 square feet [110 square metres], enclosed by four glass walls, that can be used for meetings and events. With the touch of a button, a photoelectric system in the glass will turn it opaque and you can project images on it.
What is your dream job?
I’m living my dream job.