Air emissions from stacks and other sources can cause health and nuisance problems not only in the locality but sometimes 10’s of kilometers away. Air dispersion modeling can predict if and when there will be air quality problems or adverse health impacts caused by emissions from a site and help explore the effect of various emissions mitigation options.
The air dispersion model will take the stack emissions and combine these with the weather conditions and effects of topography (hills, buildings etc.) and then predict the concentration at ground level of the emissions. The concentration of the substance is then generally compared to the Ambient Air Quality Standards to determine if levels are safe or have the potential to cause health effects.
To understand these complex atmospheric interactions Lakes Environmental was established in 1996 to provide air dispersion modeling software and training to consulting companies, industries, governmental agencies, and academia.
The introduction of Lakes Environmental’s graphical Microsoft® Windows®-based interfaces revolutionized the field of air dispersion modeling software. Since 1996, Lakes Environmental has been recognized internationally for its technologically advanced air dispersion modeling software and also for its exceptional expertise in the area of IT solutions for environmental sciences.
To get more insight of the company we conversed with Jesse L. Thé, CEO, and President
Why did you select this vertical to set up the company?
The founders have a passion for the environment. Even understanding that the market is much smaller than other IT fields, we decided to proceed to develop IT solutions for leaving a cleaner and healthier world. We truly believe that we should dedicate our lives to something that we enjoy, and which contributes to the well-being of us all.
Share your first project roll on experience project roll out experience.
Our product had to displace existing solutions, based on the old DOS operating system. Changing people’s mind and entrenched practices is always an uphill battle. Due to our much more productive solution, our users achieved significant competitive advantages. Over time even the most obstinate atmospheric pollution modeler moved to our platform. As an unfortunate side effect, numerous competitors entered the marketplace only to be sold and resold multiple times. Even with the influx of funding from large investors, our competitors could not keep up with our product quality, ease of use and market dominance.
What challenges had you faced in the initial years?
Initial years were very difficult due to the need to invest all the profits back to create new products and update the old ones. Some new offerings required 2 to 3 years of development at a cost of about US$2 million. Since we did not have any investors, we had to invest vast amounts of sweat equity from inhumanly long working hours.
Two-way communication is the key. Employees need to feel they have an outlet for sharing their observations and ideas, is this true with your company?
This question only scratches the surface of employee communication. For example, “an outlet” is not enough. Employees want to express themselves technically regarding an array of subjects. Employees want different ways to communicate feelings and ideas. We take it very seriously for two reasons: Their ideas are usually correct and allowing them to express themselves appropriately demonstrates that we care about them.
Do you give employees enough autonomy in work-related decisions?
We have a system of apprenticeship, where junior employees have certain autonomy on smaller tasks. In ascending order, more complex tasks are decided more autonomously by more senior employees. Before tasks are assigned, a design session is held such that everyone can express opinions, provide suggestions, and get clarifications. Tasks then are assigned based on expertise. Only then will an employee have the autonomy, on their tasks, to make decisions.
In order to stay motivated and inspired in the workplace, employees should feel there are opportunities to continue to grow in their careers, not just from a promotion standpoint, but in terms of professional development. Do professional development opportunities exist in your company?
This is a very important point for us since we are in a field of continuous change where our professional expertise becomes obsolete very fast. To retain our staff, it is no longer sufficient to provide good salaries. We must also provide a sense of purpose, a career path, and continuous professional development opportunities.
Do you have new product release anytime soon?
Lakes Environmental always has new products under development. Recently our clients have expressed the need for our products to replace adjacent solutions, not at present covered by us. According to our clients: “since your products work flawlessly, could you please replace our IT solution for XYZ, which is a constant source of headaches”? We have already won various contracts to replace these solutions and we foresee a very profitable new environmental market for us.
Where do you picture your company in the coming years?
Lakes Environmental has put aside substantial funds to propel it to the next phase. We can maintain operations and new development for at least the next 5 years. We are currently employing these resources in new Cloud and mobile applications that we believe will be extremely useful to our clients and presenting us with good return for even further developments.
Meet Jesse L. Thé, CEO, and President
Prof Jesse L. Thé, PhD., P.Eng., is the President of Lakes Environmental Software. He has over 25 years of experience in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and environmental simulations. Dr. Thé is the main author of AERMOD View, CALPUFF View, SCIPUFF View, IRAP View, and Emissions View, among others. He consults for regulatory agencies in Canada, the USA, and abroad on topics related to complex air modeling projects. He is a Professor at the University of Waterloo, and has authored commercial software, co-authored technical environmental books, is an Executive Editor of the Elsevier Journal of ENERGY, and the Editor-in-Chief of ENN.com (the largest environmental news network site on the internet). Dr. Jesse Thé is a great public speaker, who has received outstanding reviews from those attending his courses.
“Our graphical Windows-based interfaces revolutionized the air dispersion modeling software field.”