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Jean-Michel Carrière


Jean-Michel appears in the Top 100 

Canadian Professionals Magazine

Carriere, Jean-Michel-2_edited.jpg


Jean-Michel Carrière


A city is so much more than just the bricks that make up its buildings and the lettering on its street signs. Jean-Michel Carrière knows that well. “It’s the stories behind them, the entirety of the cultural significance,” he says. Inspired every day by how the built environment defines and reflects communities, Jean-Michel strives to conserve those stories for future generations to cherish.

Jean-Michel started his career as a structural engineer 20 years ago, fresh out of the University of Ottawa, joining Adjeleian Allen Rubeli Limited (AAR). Today, he’s president of AAR, specializing in heritage and existing structures, buildings recognized and celebrated for their historical and cultural value. Providing structural engineering services for countless projects across Canada since 1955, AAR has over 300 active projects, including heritage retrofits, renovations and repairs, and structural engineering for new buildings. Their portfolio boasts projects such as the 180 Wellington restoration and seismic retrofit, a stunning update to the 1927 building and preservation of unique elements like its glittering ceiling mosaics. It earned multiple awards including the 2017 Award of Excellence at the Ottawa Architectural Conservation Awards. Other award-winning projects include the rehabilitation of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa and the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards. Jean-Michel, himself, was named in the Ottawa Business Journal and the Ottawa Board of Trade’s 40 Under 40 list.

Conserving buildings is more than just a profession for Jean-Michel. He is president of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP), a national association dedicated to sharing knowledge on the conservation of heritage buildings and advocating for the brilliant professionals across the country. “There are a lot of professionals out here doing great work,” he says. “I’m just proud to be doing really cool work and to be part of a community of very talented people that have so much to teach.”

We met with Jean-Michel to learn more about how he and his team are celebrating Canada’s stories, one building at a time.

Why did you choose to specialize in heritage buildings and conservation? Did you always have an affinity for these types of buildings?


Ottawa has a relatively strong heritage component to our infrastructure. It was really a question of just being exposed to it at a young age. My interest was in existing buildings, and heritage structures were a large portion of the work. It became fascinating to me what these buildings represent from a cultural perspective and how they contribute to the community by their location, significance, and history, and that kept fueling my interest. They represent so much for our cultural heritage as a whole, and what resonates with me in working with other professionals in that field is how they conserve these elements.


What are some of the challenges that come with working with heritage buildings?


These types of buildings have aspects that don’t exist anymore in construction, so they involve a lot of custom solutions. Then it’s balancing the needs of owners, stakeholders, and users, and adapting to building codes while respecting the cultural heritage. A project like 180 Wellington, a major retrofit of a designated heritage building, allowed me to dive in and express myself from the professional side and really grow as an engineer and project manager.


What was the first project you worked on early in your career?


My first project was with AAR, right after I graduated from University. It was the New Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. I was brought in as a field engineer to review construction of the new signature building. I was just one person on a very large team, but it was a fortunate opportunity to work on a large project right out of the gate. It was certainly trial by fire, but it was fantastic. I even brought in my father and uncles at one point for a site tour because I was so happy and wanted to show them what I was working on.


As a leader, you also work to elevate the company culture and empower AAR’s staff and their growth. Tell us a bit about your approach.


It’s about leadership, not management. I’m focused on building a sustainable system for future leaders. I want to make sure they have a voice and feel empowered to be part of the future. I say to them all the time: “I can’t do what I do without you doing what you do.” At any level of their career, giving people the opportunity to feel heard and safe is incredibly important for their growth. If they can do the job better than me, that’s the ultimate goal.


What drives you to continue to advocate for heritage building conservation?


It’s that sense of awe that a building still stands and remains part of the landscape and history. We can’t lose them, or we’ll lose our identity as a people and a community.


Jean-Michel Carrière

President — Adjeleian Allen Rubeli Limited



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