29 Jan Forest Borch, P.Eng.
Congratulations to BKL Acoustical Consultant Forest Borch, who earned his P.Eng. this past fall!
Forest has consulted with BKL for six years, and was certified as a WELL Accredited Professional in 2019. During his time with BKL, Forest has applied his creativity to bring together good acoustics and sustainable design on a variety of projects across sectors—residential, health care, transit, and more. Yet regardless of the specific project, uniting high-quality acoustics and green building principles, such as energy efficiency and low embodied carbon, is something that ultimately benefits people and the planet.
How did you hear about BKL and what brought you to Vancouver?
I was interested in working in acoustics after an unpaid internship at the Technical University of Munich where I helped a PhD candidate on their acoustics research project. For my final co-op term placement, I started to cold-call every acoustics related company in Canada, asking “can I have a job?” BKL was at the top of my list, so when Mark offered me a job, I was quick to say yes.
What was your co-op term like?
It was fun. I got a lot of help from the BKL staff and Partners who really work to curate a workplace with a family atmosphere. I didn’t have much experience in acoustics so there was definitely a steep learning curve. Being from Alberta, I had always heard about how amazing Vancouver was, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a bittersweet day when I had to return to my snowy, cold home to finish my undergrad in mechanical engineering.
What brought you back to BKL after graduation?
After graduation I saw a clear career path and opportunity for both growth and challenge at BKL. Being a musician on the side, I wanted to design spaces that facilitated a connection between the artist and listener. I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to contribute to the design of some pretty cool spaces!
During your time at BKL, you must have worked on some incredible projects. Were there any that required acoustical innovation or creativity?
The nature of engineering is based on scientific theory grounded in real life solutions—it’s how we as consultants can offer any level of certainty to our clients. That being said, I’ve seen a very forward-thinking approach at BKL to adapt to changes in the industry. For example, we are in the middle of a climate crisis where our clients—especially in the building industry—are having to respond to regulatory changes (e.g., the Building Code and BC Energy Step Code). Using engineering design principles, I’ve had to be creative in working with clients meet their sustainable building goals including the selection of materials with low embodied carbon, analysis of facades and mechanical systems to account for acoustical implications allowing for energy efficient designs, and the design of a built environment that focuses on human health. The Royal Columbian Hospital Phase 1 expansion project in particular was a real challenge.
You’re now a WELL AP and P.Eng. and you seem focused on sustainability; how does this affect the way you provide acoustical design solutions?
It allows me to consider the health of the public and environment in a way that I hadn’t before. With my P.Eng., I have found a new resonance with the first tenant of the EGBC Code of Ethics, which states that engineers shall “Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public, the protection of the environment, and promote health and safety within the workplace.”
We know the impact that sound has on peoples’ health, so it’s a big responsibility to ensure that the solutions that we provide uphold this tenant. Where there are shifts in the building industry to help with the “protection of the environment,” including lightweight constructions that have low embodied carbon and a whole building approach to energy efficiency, there are significant acoustical challenges. Effective communication and teamwork, paired with individual adaptability and accountability, are essential on this front.
What are you most excited about regarding the future of acoustical engineering?
I’m excited to work on solutions that will help enable more green buildings to house healthy people. For example, if a building has poor sound isolation, it doesn’t matter how much CO2 one is keeping out of the atmosphere—most people won’t want to live there. Understanding how the health of building occupants impacts the expected lifespan of a building has changed the way I see acoustics fitting into sustainable design.
Last question: Almost every one of BKL’s acoustical consultants is known to play an instrument or two. Are you one of them?
I dabble. Keep your ear out post pandemic and you may hear a violin playing Roma jazz or an old-time fiddle playing for a barn dance. To say that playing music has had a slight influence in my becoming an acoustical consultant would be an understatement.