CPP Welcomes Valerie Sifton to Lead the Weather and Climate Insights Team
We are pleased to welcome Valerie Sifton to lead the Weather and Climate Insights Team at CPP Wind. With over 20 years of experience in Wind Engineering and climate analytics, Valerie has spent more than half that time leading a multi-disciplinary team developing climate models, datasets, and software tools for climate and weather-related studies in the built environment. She conducts climate assessments for a broad spectrum of services and industries, including applications for safety and serviceability design, operations, and forensics, focusing on extreme winds.
Valerie has worked on several of the tallest buildings around the world, including Burj Khalifa and Jeddah Tower. More recently, she directed an ambitious project assessing wind speeds and other climate design criteria for seven countries in the Middle East. Valerie’s efforts resulted in the 2018 versions of the Saudi Building Code and Energy Conservation Code and the basis of the design wind speeds in the 2021 Dubai Building Code.
In addition to the building codes, she has also published several papers at Wind Engineering conferences. Articles in The Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics, the Journal of Weather and Climate Extremes, and was a contributing author to the book Tall and Supertall Buildings: Planning and Design.
Enjoy a Q & A session with Valerie about her career, favorite projects, and what excites her about her new role.
1. How were you introduced to the Wind Engineering industry?
I started in Wind Engineering as a co-op student while studying Civil Engineering at the University of Waterloo. I worked on several meteorological and wind tunnel software tools at another wind engineering firm and completed my 4th-year thesis with Dr. Peter Irwin on Internal Pressures for Cladding Studies.
2. In your career, what is your favorite structure or project you have been involved with?
That’s a tough one! There are two that stand out, though, so I will share both.
Early in my career, I got to work with the artists Christo and Jean Claude on their Over the River work which was never completed. They were known for these colossal-scale Art installation projects (e.g., The Valley Curtain, The Gates). Since I have a degree in Fine Arts as well as Engineering, it was exciting to work with professional artists, but in an engineering capacity. My two worlds collided!
The other was developing the climate zone, and design wind speed maps for the Arabian Peninsula for the International Building Code. It was a monumental scale project for my team, completely novel in its approach, and my first time directing a project of this magnitude. It was truly a multi-disciplinary team effort and leveraged the full spectrum of my team’s expertise – Atmospheric Science, WRF modeling, Monte Carlo simulations, Advanced Statistics, Geospatial analysis. It was exciting to be working on something no one had done before and incredible to lead a team that was leveraging their diverse expertise to deal with obstacles and innovate solutions all along the way. I have never felt so proud in my professional career.
3. What is the tallest building or structure you’ve ever been involved in creating? And what is the highest you’ve ever been off the ground? Airplanes excluded!
The tallest existing building I have worked on would be Burj Khalifa, and they don’t get any taller than that (yet)! We employed mesoscale weather modeling to look at the high-up winds in the boundary layer. I honed that technique on a few others that have been taller but were either never built or never finished. If\when Jeddah Tower gets completed, it will take my first-place spot at 1 km tall.
Highest I have been off the ground is less impressive. I guess the highest would be the CN Tower restaurant level, which I think is 350 m, followed by the Empire State Building and St. Louis Arch. But all of those were well before I became an engineer (please note I am now available for site visits)!
4. What do you feel is the biggest strength of our company right now?
Practically everyone that I have met at CPP Wind is passionate about what they do and, perhaps more importantly, what they could potentially do – they are open to change and possibilities. I think when people are excited about something and are open to thinking in different ways, that’s when the magic happens.
5. What strengths do you bring to CPP?
I think my biggest strength is in systems thinking. I really like figuring out how all the pieces of something work together, uncovering potential and defining a vision for how things could be. But I always need others to help me execute because inevitably, I will get distracted and start a different project!
6. What is the number one metric you will use to measure success?
Happiness. Before I get myself into trouble, I should qualify that. If people are happy at work, they are engaged in their job. Their performance will be better, they will be productive, go above and beyond, and will bring their whole selves to work and be creative and innovate new solutions. They also tend to stick around.
And, if our clients are happy! If we are keenly interested in understanding what they need and adapt and innovate to ensure they get it, we have done what we set out to do. And they will keep coming back.
7. What is it about this position that EXCITES you?
I am very excited about helping to build this team and this service line. They are both relatively new here at CPP. I like that I get to do something familiar but in a whole new way, like a fresh start. I think my history working in climate as an engineer will complement the team’s expertise on the meteorological side. I also really enjoy getting to know people and figuring out what makes them tick, so I can hopefully be a mentor for them in their careers.
8. How important is team building?
Extremely important. Developing trust and camaraderie is essential for engagement and innovation. A great team can be way more than the sum of its parts.
9. What’s your most-used productivity hack?
I don’t know that I have a singular go-to hack. It depends on the situation and the tools available, and I have always enjoyed exploring new tools and new programming languages. That being said, I am known to be a bit of an Excel guru. I am partial to leveraging databases and automation whenever possible – you can do so much with a well-designed database and some SQL scripts.
10. What was your first paying job?
I worked in a bakery in the mall near the house where I grew up. I believe I made $3.00/hour, but hey, free donuts!
11. What’s your least favorite chore around the house?
Cleaning! That’s why I pay someone else to do it!
12. While working, do you listen to music, podcasts, or sit in complete silence?
I love listening to music and podcasts, but I tend to do that while I’m running, as I can’t while I am working most of the time, I find it too distracting.
Please join us in welcoming Valerie Sifton, P.Eng, as the Associate Principal leading CPP Wind’s Weather and Climate Insights Team!
Valerie may be reached at: