CCE’s Top 10 Under 40: Stacia Van Zetten
By Peter Saunders
This year, for the first time, Canadian Consulting Engineer launched an initiative to recognize up-and-coming consulting engineers across the country. We are now showcasing them on our website, in alphabetical order by surname.
Stacia Van Zetten, 34, is co-founder of and chief strategy officer for Toronto-based Exact Technology, which uses wireless sensors and software to monitor concrete construction in real time. Such efforts have proven valuable in the face of labour and material shortages and supply chain issues.
“We reduced the cement in the mix for the Eglinton Crosstown light-rail transit (LRT) line by 70%,” she says.
Van Zetten was originally drawn to architecture, her grandfather’s profession, before switching her focus to civil engineering.
“I studied architecture for one year, but liked the technical side of construction enough that I went into structural engineering,” she explains, “and a second-year internship as a material science specialist for EllisDon sucked me into the world of concrete.”
Through exposure to large infrastructure projects, she identified the need to develop and use embedded sensors to determine parameters for how concrete performs in the field (e.g. temperature, moisture, maturity and strength) to push the industry forward.
“There were a lot of inefficiencies in concrete, due to a lack of data and transparency,” she says. “I bounced from project to project as a consultant, troubleshooting and conducting research and development (R&D).”
“My vision is to touch all parts of the concrete process.”
She eventually left EllisDon to focus full-time on Exact. Under her leadership, the start-up further developed other products, such as temperature-matched curing technology for cast-in-place concrete, and acquired a precast electric curing company to tie all of the pieces together.
“We’re not buying sensors off the shelf,” says Van Zetten. “We’re building them and consulting with our clients about how best to use them. My vision is to touch all parts of the concrete process, from taking materials from the ground to the batch plants to how they perform in trucks and on-site and, eventually, how they perform 10 to 100 years from now.”
The company’s success has meant a major change in her role and responsibilities.
“My time is spent in client meetings now, not as much on-site,” she says. “It’s definitely different. I’m an engineer, not a salesperson, but the learning experience for sales and management has been very satisfying!”