Residential Q&A: An interview with Jazz Alvarez

September 2020 – by Jazz Alvarez


This month we had a conversation with Jazz Alvarez— Principal & VP of Engineering–Residential. Interviewed by Marketing Coordinator Sarah Picco, Jazz reflects on his history with the firm, ways in which the pandemic has affected the housing industry—particularly builders, while reinforcing the value of servicing clients with a bright outlook for the future.


The following is a transcript of the interview, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Above: Construction trends lean toward stacked housing as larger plots of land are becoming a rare find in the GTA (Image: Pace Developments–Urban North Townhomes, Barrie).


SP: What inspired you to be an engineer? JA: My older brother was studying civil engineering at the time I was contemplating what career path I might pursue. I thought, ‘I could do that’. Civil seemed to be an easier type of engineering—compared to let’s say, mechanical engineering. My oldest brother is also an architect. I suppose I was connected to and influenced by the building industry from a young age.

SP: Tell us a little about your role at PICCO Engineering. How have you continued to provide services to clients during the COVID-19 pandemic? JA: I am the lead engineer on PICCO’s residential projects. I started in 2001 and have been with the firm for 20 years now. My team and I work with home builders across the GTA to provide comprehensive structural design and review for a wide variety of residential project types and communities. In addition, I provide engineering support in stone and lightweight cladding projects—both locally and abroad.

Over the past six months, we have conscientiously spent time and effort to come up with a very sensitive, yet effective way of combating the effects of this pandemic . Our senior leadership, with the support of dedicated employees, have done a lot of training in our office such that we have been able to continue working seamlessly without any interruption to scheduled and/or time- sensitive projects required by our clients. Our designers and engineers were supported with all required technology and hardware so that everyone could remain connected to our network, each other, and clients. We rotate teams on different days in the office, and adhere to the Ontario provincial government guidelines and requirements enforcing social distancing measures and minimizing face to face meetings to avoid any potential spread of the Coronavirus.

SP: What have you been seeing over the past few years in the residential sector? How has it changed? What are the types of dwelling styles more prominently over the past five years? JA: Interesting question. The residential sector has gone through some trends. Lately, detached units have become too costly; as a result, developers are moving towards building more stacked housing such as townhouses and condominiums. Part of this shift is also driven by population increase and urban sprawl. There are no large lots left in the GTA—people would have to go way up north to find land.

SP: Has there been a shift in any of the materials being used?

JA: Slight changes—starting this month lumber costs have risen 46% and are more expensive due to demand and running low on supply. Because of this cost increase, builders are beginning to explore alternative material options and are considering different products; however, the full impact of these influences remains to be seen.


SP: What has been the most challenging aspect of your job?

JA: Too many townhouses! I am grateful for the varied types of projects we engineer and some of the unique challenges we get to solve that make us among the top in residential. But, there are a lot of townhouses! We have done so many townhouses they would stretch from here to Alaska.

SP: Why should a builder use your services?

JA: I’ve been working with 30+ builders for over 20 years. We’ve developed a responsive relationship such that if they have a problem on site, I will go to site (any time, day or night) and resolve any issues immediately on the spot. I can also walk a client through fixing the problem over the phone any hour of the day. I have a solid understanding of construction—more than just engineering; my years of experience makes a difference than let’s say, just going by the book. This quality I believe makes me different, and what sets me apart from other engineering consultants.


“When it comes to economic and structural reliability, we are second to none. Our fast turnaround and fair pricing are what builders have come to rely on and appreciate about PICCO. We strive to produce great quality work on every project—whether it’s an existing client, or a new client who is working with us for the first time.”


SP: Lastly, PICCO’s core values are ‘shaping progress’ and ‘designing legacy’. How does your work in low-rise residential engineering (and construction) achieve this goal?

JA: PICCO Engineering started over 25 years ago. From the beginning we’ve maintained professional engineering services to our low-rise residential projects. Because we work with architects to understand their vision, as well as GC’s to facilitate the construction schedule and avoid delays, we are able to consistently deliver time sensitive projects quickly while providing the quality of work and savings that cannot be compared to other consulting engineering firms. This level of understanding and coordination often exceeds our client’s expectations. And this goal has been attested to in so many ways by both old and new clients, who have been very loyal to us over the years—even at present, during times of slowdown and lockdown due to unavoidable circumstances caused by the pandemic.

PICCO’s vast experience through our highly technical and professional engineers, along with the ability to solve unforeseen and rare problems on site are key to our lasting legacy. Anybody can take a project on, but you have to learn to handle the pressure and be very organized. You can’t just be a good engineer—you have to love engineering! The secret to our customer service is that we talk to each and every builder, and every person on site—like it’s our home.

For more information contact: jaca@picco-engineering.com

Principal, V.P. Engineering-Residential at PICCO Engineering

JJazz is Lead Engineer on PICCO’s residential projects. Jazz also provides engineering assistance in stone and lightweight cladding projects, both locally and abroad and has more than 30 years of construction experience. Jazz holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering and Sanitary and Environmental Engineering and is registered with the Professional Engineers of Ontario, the States of Michigan Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Tennessee, New York, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and the District of Columbia. He is certified and registered with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.


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