An illuminating career | Meet Ibby Kanalas, Associate, Senior Electrical Engineer

Ibby truly lights the way with her exceptional contribution as a passionate electrical and specialist lighting design engineer for over 35 years. 

It’s only fitting that on 4 November 2022, at the Illuminating Engineering Society (IESANZ) Award Night, she received the highest award achievable in the lighting industry - the Dick Chappell Memorial Award - in recognition of her 32-year contribution to the lighting industry and 12 years of active voluntary work in the IES NSW Chapter Management Committee.

“The award was unexpected, and I really was touched by the support of the IES CMC Members nominating me. I am sure this was and will be the peak of my professional life.” Ibby said. 

The Award and Gala dinner night was attended by more than 400 people, most from the lighting industry.

Ibby began her career in the 1980s when she found herself to be one of only a few female engineers and she is thrilled this has now changed.

She joined Northrop Consulting Engineers in 2013 and leads projects across many sectors including Education, Infrastructure, Community and Health and enjoys projects including office accommodations, fit-outs and public domain lighting.  

Ibby’s road to engineering is an inspiring story. She was encouraged and inspired by Martha Kovach - the first female electrical engineer in Hungary. Martha was Jewish and orphaned in the war and despite a difficult childhood she made it to university to receive her doctorate in engineering and employment in the building industry. She managed a team of eight building services engineers that included Ibby.

“She encouraged me to become an engineer, without her I would never have thought of it. She arranged a scholarship for me, and I am so thankful for the career path she inspired me to take,” says Ibby.

Ibby’s unique skills and passion have given her access to a wide variety of challenging and unique projects. One of these was working at the refurbishment of Westmead Hospital, where Ibby delivered over 14 projects in the past six years, including 16 operating theatres.

“I learnt a lot about how to deliver successful health infrastructure including finding adequate power supplies to work within a live hospital where the key challenge is to keep all services operational during the refurbishment works.”

Ibby worked on many infrastructure projects at the Sydney International Airport. She re-designed the outdated lighting for ground transport access including the design of new entry/exit booths with high tech access and security surveillance. One of her most challenging projects at the airport was to design lighting for a new 300m long pedestrian and cycle way bridge spanning across the International Airport carpark and Cook River Avenue all the way to Airport Drive. 

Some of her other key projects include a full upgrade of a government building at 66 Harrington Street, The Rocks, from an old 1970-ies outdated office accommodation to a modern 21st century style open plan office accommodation.

Her most interesting project is the URBNSURF Sydney development, a State Significant Development of a unique kind. This project is a new inland surfing facility with an artificial lagoon and massive wave generators. It is currently under construction at the Sydney Olympic Park site.

Ibby delivered designs for sporting facilities for many Local Councils including; Heffron Park, Epping Oval, Garside Reserve, Gipps Street, Clearmont Meadows, Rydalmere, Newington, Schofield Sporting Facility, and many more!

Hospitality venues are also a favourite for Ibby as they offer a great opportunity to exercise her specialist lighting design skills. Some of her projects include; The Marsden at Marsden Park, Log Cabin in Penrith, Jordan Springs Tavern, Calderwood Tavern and many more.  

Ibby’s contribution supports the deep technical excellence offered by Northop engineers to realise the success of our clients’ projects.    

“Ibby is our technical powerhouse with solutions for every issue. She is an amazing person with a positive attitude and offers technical or personal advice to everyone. She is respectful and makes everyone feel comfortable around her. Her contribution to the entire electrical team is commendable. I am very lucky to learn from her and have her in our team.” Surekha Parajuli, Principal,  Electrical Section Manager.

“Having Ibby in our electrical team has provided a solid foundation of technical excellence, her personality, cheekiness and maturity make it very easy for our team to approach her for advice” Yogesh Maharaj, Principal, Sydney Building Services.

As an active member of the IES NSW chapter management committee, Ibby looked after the Awards portfolio for four years and managed the IES NSW Chapter annual lighting design, lighting sculpture and luminaire design award judging panel until 2020. She is still an active member of the IES Judging Panel.

As a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society ANZ, Ibby enjoys sharing her knowledge with young graduates and promoting the art and science in lighting design. She is committed to sharing her passion for engineering by mentoring and developing young engineers too. 

Her love of art is not only confined to lighting, Ibby is also an avid painter and a keen supporter of the visual and performing arts. 

Would you like to understand more about lighting design engineering?

Contact Ibby in our Sydney office on 02 9241 4188 or


Ibby Kanalas

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