Sojourn Of A Nigerian Architect in Canada #7 | Schooling

Sojourn Of A Nigerian Architect in Canada #7 | Schooling

I am excited to share the 7th episode of this series – Sojourn of a Nigerian Architect in Canada. I have been schooling these past few months and have learnt a lot more about architecture in Canada.

My school program, Architectural Technologies at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, SAIT is a 2-year program that teaches about architectural design, drafting, cost estimating and site supervision. I have completed the first year and will be sharing in this post the structure of the program and its suitability for foreign-trained architects.

The architectural technologies program has 4 specialized courses repeating themselves every semester but with progressing difficulty. 

These courses are: 

  1. Research and design 
  2. Technology
  3. Documentation and regulation
  4. Science and systems 

Research and design

This course is about architectural design and the design processes. Topics like site analysis, case studies, design development, aesthetics of building form, functional layouts etc are taught.

The knowledge here is very similar to what most foreign-trained architects already know. So it’s smooth riding!

Technology

This course is about the use of design and drafting software, standard drafting methods and what constitutes a complete architectural drawing set.  CAD and BIM are the principal tools taught here. They also teach Bluebeam Revu (PDF markup) and Autodesk FormIt (quick 3D modelling) in the first semester and Lumion (rendering) in later semesters. 

AutoCAD is taught and used in the first semester while Revit is taught and used every other semester until graduation.

A lot of Foreign-trained architects already have a good foundation in the use of CAD, BIM and rendering software so the course will refresh your memory and teach you new skills and tricks.

Here is where the learning starts!


Documentation and Regulation

This course is about studying the Canadian regulatory requirements for buildings and implementing/documenting them in our designs. The principal documents used here are:

  1. The Building Codes
  2. Land Use Bylaws e.g. Calgary LUB

The Building Code is a voluminous document that is technical to read and differs from province to province while the Land Use Bylaw is less voluminous and easy to read but differs from city to city. The focus of The Building Code is the safety of buildings while the focus of the Land Use Bylaw is planning regulations. Since it is mandatory for all buildings in Canada to meet the requirements in these documents, you are taught to navigate, understand and implement these regulations in design. 

Foreign-trained architects especially those from tropical regions and countries without an enforced Building Code would need to spend more time and effort here. Though no one is expected to memorize these documents, a working knowledge of them is required.

Science and Systems

This course is about construction methods, materials and details. Here, the uniqueness of the Canadian climate and how it impacts local construction and materials is emphasized. You start off learning about wood frame construction and move on to more complex construction methods.

One very interesting aspect of construction in Canada is that because of the varying climatic condition within the country, construction methods can vary within dissimilar climatic zones or provinces. For example, a wall assembly system designed for Calgary won’t work optimally in Vancouver.

Even though foreign-trained architects are very conversant with construction methods, there are a lot of new ideas to learn in this course. So, those of us who only have masonry/concrete construction experience will need to put in more time and effort.


My take on the SAIT Architectural technologies program

One thing I find fascinating about the way the program is been delivered is that at every interim presentation/jury (3 held per semester), you are required to discuss and show in your presentation how you have implemented the knowledge gathered from each of the courses discussed above. Each instructor will be present at your presentation listening to hear how his/her course has influenced your project. Those interim presentations are graded and form the entire continuous assessments for each course. The final submission of your drawings and binder is the examination.

At the end of the day, your project isn’t only about design but the exceptional use of technology, a sound understanding of construction materials and methods, and the implementation of all regulatory requirements.

In the long term, I believe this knowledge is beneficial to foreign-trained architects and will help us quickly gain Canadian education, some experience and ultimately confidence in our architectural abilities. 

Whether foreign-trained architects can also acquire this knowledge by working as intern architects in Canadian architectural firms is yet to be ascertained.

If you would like to see my drawings and know more about my SAIT projects – click My SAIT Portfolio below. Regarding my internship, I am holding off on it until I am done with this programme

Below is an animation of my second-semester project.

To learn more about this second-semester project click here

Remember to share and leave a comment if you require more information. I wish you the best in your architectural journey.

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14 comments

  1. Your journey has been nothing short if insightful sir. Thank you for sharing. Cheers to more feats even as you take us through…. God bless you.

  2. Hi Ehimen, Greetings from India.
    Does SAIT for the diploma of Architectural Technologies has CO OP in any of the semester ?

    1. Hi Syed,

      Thanks for reaching out.
      No, SAIT’s Architectural Technologies (AT) program doesn’t have CO OP. It is a straight, full-time program, then you seek employment after you are done. If you need to work, you can work part-time as you school, a lot of students do this too. Also, if you are admitted in September, you will have the summer break off. If you get a job during this break, you can work briefly.

      1. Thank you so much for your response,
        I have a similar background as yours, I’m an registered Architect from India and have been in academics as assistant professor past 10 years.
        My intension is to try for admission in SAIT on students visa and try for PR later.
        But I’m not too sure about the jobs in Calgary for architectural technologist even after finishing the Canadian education.
        Can you please share some info on what are the other job options related to architects available in Calgary (apart from minimum wage odd jobs) ?

        Are there any other Architectural Technologies courses which offer CO OP ?

        1. Architecture firms in Calgary are always hiring. The challenge is often having what they need. From experience, I will say most employers prioritize either Canadian experience or education, however, there are always the lucky few. Going through SAIT will help you greatly, especially if you are one of the best students in your class, you can even get job referrals from your instructors because employers reach out to these professors for good students to hire.

          For other job options related to architecture, there is project management or contract administrator. A lot of foreign-trained architects are becoming PMs in Canada. If you come to Canada with reasonable funds, you may decide to go into real estate (design and build) etc. If you are confident in your skillset, you can undertake small projects that are not greater than 3 storeys and 600sqm, as this project scope is open to everyone (single-family homes, etc). Bigger than this scope, then you need an architect.

          So it depends on where you feel you fit in.

          For CO-OP, no architectural technologies program at SAIT with CO-OP but there are other programs with CO-OP, you may want to check the SAIT website for them.

          1. Thanks again for your reply … this is great help … I’ll surely get in touch with you for further help and guidance.

  3. I’m proud of you journey thus far. You are a motivation to a lot of us.
    You did a good job on the animation.

  4. Thanks so much, I have been following up on your blog, really insightful contents.

    This 2-year programme at SAIT, is it a diploma or a post-graduate programme?

  5. Thanks for the update. I’ve been following for a while now.
    I’d love to know if you are working part time along with school or the architectural technologist program is a full time program.

    1. Hi Tolulope,

      Yes, my school program is full-time (Monday – Friday, 8am – 3pm). I also work part-time after school.

      Also, the architectural technologies program has both part-time and full time streams. September and January’s streams are full-time, while May stream is part time (evening and weekend). I am in the January stream, why I opted for it is because it has the shortest duration (18 months – no summer break) unlike the rest which are 24 months.

      1. Thanks for the reply.

        Is the part time job you get after school hour ok to fund your school fees payment and other expenses as an international student.

        I’m thinking of doing a diploma in architectural technology at Georgian college.

        1. Hi Tolulope,

          A diploma in Architectural Technologies is a good career. A part-time job hour is a maximum of 20 hours per week. Now, I don’t know what skill set or education you previously have but as a new immigrant, you may find yourself taking a minimum wage job initially. I doubt if this will be enough for tuition fees and personal expenses for an international student because you pay about 3X more than say a student with a PR or citizenship. My advice will be, carefully select a reputable school with a low tuition, source for some money from home for tuition fees and you would have significantly reduced your burden.
          Good luck as you pursue your dream.

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