The way we work can add meaning and value to the world. Q & A with Tom Ditoro - Director of Operations at HDR.

January 10, 2019





Tom Ditoro started his career at HDR over 20 years ago as an Electrical Engineer and has held positions of Project Manager, Managing Principal, Global Director of Electrical Engineering.  He is currently the Director of Operations for HDR in Canada.  Tom has worked on a wide variety of project types including small healthcare remodels, a seven star hospital in Abu Dhabi, and the largest Data Centre in China.





Q. Please tell us about HDR.


A.  We believe that the way we work can add meaning and value to the world. That ideas inspire positive change. That coloring outside the lines can illuminate fresh perspectives. And that small details yield important realizations. Above all, we believe that collaboration is the best way forward.


We specialize in engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services. While we are most well-known for adding beauty and structure to communities through high-performance buildings and smart infrastructure, we provide much more than that. We create an unshakable foundation for progress because our multidisciplinary teams also include scientists, economists, builders, analysts and artists.


With over 10,000 employees, working in more than 200 locations in 7 countries, and over 100 years of operations; we continue to push open the doors to what's possible each and every day.


Q. Please tell us about the culture and philosophy for digitalization and innovation at HDR?


A. HDR has several Innovation Teams chartered with developing and implementing innovative solutions for our clients that improve restorative design features, take advantage of leading edge technologies, and improve the quality of our BIM deliverables. One of those teams, our Digital Practice Team, is focused on improving our internal processes and digital deliverables through the use of algorithms designed to minimize the repetitious tasks inherent with the digital modeling.  The result is more time for our team to focus on better quality solutions for our clients. Our Technology Innovation Team is developing tools for visualization of building models and reaction of the building model to various inputs in real time (building siting, weather and occupancy for example).


Q. Please tell us about HDR’s work on “Humber River Hospital: First Fully-digital Hospital in North America”.  


A. HDR is enormously proud to be associated with Humber River Hospital. Serving a diverse, multi-cultural urban community of over 850,000 residents in northwest Toronto, the new 656-bed, 1,828,282 square-feet, $984 million (CAD) facility opened on October 18, 2015 and is anticipated to treat 130,000 emergency department patients, deliver 6,000 newborns, perform 42,000 inpatient and 30,000 outpatient surgeries as well as support 450,000 on-site clinic visits annually. HDR was the prime consultant and design architect for the project. This project allowed HDR to dovetail the wealth of healthcare experience of its staff, to the HRH vision to be the first fully digital hospital in North America. At the peak of design activity, HDR had over 110 staff from 10 offices working on the project. These staff members contributed to every facet of digital technology incorporated in the project, from automated guided vehicles and material transfer systems to patient bedside technology and building intelligent systems such as the dynamic glass used on the building façade. The new hospital was procured using Infrastructure Ontario’s Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) Design, Build, Finance, Maintain (DBFM) public-private partnership delivery model and was delivered in an astonishing 44 months.  It is a testament to the resource strength and commitment of HDR that this was possible. And HDR continues to deliver services on to HRH which underlines our commitment to serve clients for life. Most recently we further enhanced the HRH Vision, by designing the Digital Command Centre at the hospital. This function is now the digital heartbeat of hospital increasing the efficiency and quality of healthcare to the community the hospital serves.  




Q.  Please tell us about an interesting project/case study/product where technology is being implemented or has been implemented at HDR?


A. At HDR, we are using BIM software such as Revit in conjunction with new parametric design tools. In our mechanical engineering group, we have developed tools that allow us to connect our mechanical analysis software to our Revit models. This allows us to run quality checks, verification of models, and automation of simple tasks. Put simply, it allows our engineers to focus on the engineering and less time on manual entry tasks.


We have also implemented these tools within structural engineering. On a recent pedestrian bridge project, we developed tools using software such as Grasshopper, Rhino, and Geometry Gym to connect with structural analysis programs such as SAP2000 to run multiple iterations of design models. These tools allow us to evaluate countless design models early in design to optimize steel tonnage in ways that were not previously possible.


Q. Please tell us about HDR’s in house testing facilities to understand and overcome 21st-Century Challenges.



A. We are routinely using parametric modeling on healthcare projects to find the balance of staffing needs, square footage, exterior surface area and cost estimates on the fly during collaborative design meetings with the end user, allowing us to respond faster to design concepts and changes.  


Our clients are engaging us on a digital platform with more frequency. The use of Virtual Reality allows our designers and clients to experience the designed space virtually to immediately capture their experience and feedback of the space during the design process.


Q. Finally, please share your thoughts on how Integrated Design and Construction will impact the AECOO industry in the next five years?



A. The change to a digital platform will allow designers to closely collaborate with fabrication, facility managers, utility companies and social networks.  The move toward Smart Buildings and communities will utilize this information in integrating the facilities into t