September 2 2020
Leadership at Every Level: Sustainability Champion Emily King
The foundation of Entuitive’s success is the passion our talented people have for their work and for designing resilient, sustainable cities.
The built environment is responsible for almost 40% of global carbon emissions every year, and as consulting engineers, we believe we have a responsibility to do right by the planet we call home.
At Entuitive, our sustainability champion Emily King is highly cognizant of this fact and has been leading our Sustainable Performance Group in making sure we do just that.
We sat down to talk to Emily about how the group came to be and what their plans are for Entuitive’s future.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Emily. Tell us how the Sustainable Performance Group came to fruition at Entuitive.
Emily: The idea to deepen our commitment to sustainability started when I was considering how I could leverage my professional experience and passion to have a positive impact on the planet in the face of a growing climate crisis. I had been working at Entuitive for two years as a Designer in our Structural and Restoration group, and I was really starting to think about my career path and which areas of engineering I wanted to be more involved in.
Entuitive was extremely supportive, and I had many conversations with different leaders about my future and who I wanted to be as an engineer. I was able to get really clear on the fact that I care about sustainability and want my career to reflect that.
My immediate supervisor, Mike Hillcoat, encouraged me in this direction, and directed me to Chris van Dongen and Paul Carter, two of our Associates who at that point had been working on our sustainability-focused projects for some time. After discussing and brainstorming how we might formally commit to sustainability at Entuitive, we realized that the first step was to create a committee of like-minded individuals.
Our Managing Director, Brock Schroeder, was also on board right from the start. We can’t ignore the responsibility the AEC industry has to create a sustainable built environment, and Brock encouraged us to develop a business plan to formalize sustainability at Entuitive, and this started the Sustainable Performance Group.
What was it like to make a business plan and put a tangible framework around your dream?
Emily: This was my first experience preparing a business plan, so it was a challenging and motivating experience. Chris van Dongen and Tristan Truyens, our Building Performance Analysis Lead, worked on it with me and I learned so much from them about the business side of our industry. They have such a wealth of experience, and the whole process felt like an accelerated learning curve. Even though this was the first time I was putting together a business plan, I was always treated as an equal, as were my contributions. It was a collaborative and positive experience.
As for turning a dream into a reality, I learned so much about how to create concrete goals and actionable steps towards a vision. It can be overwhelming to think of solutions to climate change. It’s such a big challenge! I think for any big dream, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, but you just have to take it one step at a time and reach out for support from the people around you.
By creating a plan, we broke this dream down into concrete, actionable, tangible steps that we could start working on immediately. One of our first tasks was to take a step back, examine all the ways we were already delivering sustainable solutions, and then identify the gaps we wanted to fill in the future, and how we could help our clients do the same.
Once we completed the business plan, we presented it to Entuitive’s Board of Directors and to the leadership group at our bi-annual corporate meeting.
Can you tell us the Sustainable Performance Group’s future plans?
Emily: A big focus of ours right now has been on continuously educating our teams and making sure everyone understands the severity of the climate crisis and the role we play as engineers and technologists.
We have spent the last two years equipping ourselves with the knowledge of what sustainable performance means to our industry, what more we want to be doing on our projects, and how we can elevate this conversation with our clients and industry partners.
We had the advantage of starting from a good position considering that many of our services, such as Building Envelope and Building Performance Analysis, were already delivering high-performing, energy-efficient buildings. Now, we’re focusing on embodied carbon, that is, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, construction, and end of life of building materials. One of the goals of the group is to ensure we are continuously building on and sharing our technical expertise.
By having these important conversations early with our clients, we have been able to reduce both the embodied carbon and the operational carbon of our projects, while offering them a holistic view of how a sustainability approach can benefit their asset throughout its lifecycle.
What would be your main message to clients considering sustainable design?
Emily: We encourage our clients to think long-term when it comes to their assets, especially because a poor-performing building can have an extremely detrimental effect on the environment. It’s important to understand the significant financial and social returns over the life of the building as a result of investing in a sustainable design.
I’m always encouraged by the number of clients who are serious about sustainable design and want to collaborate with us. Many architects, developers, and institutions already have their own mandates towards sustainable performance, and this alignment in our values is heartening. I am confident that this community of professionals is only going to grow, and it’s wonderful to see so many of us working towards so many positive changes.
Thank you so much, Emily, for taking the time to talk to us. We are excited to see all the work coming out of the Sustainable Performance Group.
If you’d like to learn more, reach out to Emily King.