Henderson Engineers Sustainability Update: November 2022 | Henderson Engineers Henderson Engineers Sustainability Update: November 2022 | Henderson Engineers

Henderson Engineers Sustainability Update: November 2022

We at Henderson understand the vital role we play as a member of the built community in helping to combat global warming through the spaces we design. It is literally the center of my role every day as Henderson’s sustainability director as we help do our part in making the world a better place. I’m excited to share an update with you about how we’re working to make changes within the AEC industry, as well as within our own walls. Below you will learn more about our Henderson 2040 Climate Pledge and the MEP 2040 Commitment, which we recently signed. These two actions will guide our operations and design practice as we actively find solutions to the climate crisis for Henderson and our clients.

Henderson 2040 Climate Pledge

Earlier this year, we announced the Henderson 2040 Climate Pledge stating that Henderson Companies will be net zero carbon across our business by 2040. Thinking about achieving net zero carbon can be overwhelming, but to quote the ancient Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Henderson understands that this is a long journey, but it’s one we’re in together and we’re committed to see through one step at a time. Our 2040 climate pledge is broken into steps, nested in six key categories: office electrification, purchased electricity, transportation, refrigerants, waste, and investment. Each step includes specific and measurable goals with one-to-three-year benchmark dates followed by actionable targets set at five-year intervals up to 2040. In the first six months of our pledge, we’ve taken the following steps within our business operations:

  • Office Lease Agreements: We amended our standards and criteria for new office leases to include provisions for all-electric buildings along with controls and metering capability to measure energy and water consumption more accurately.
  • CO2 Emission Tracking – Energy & Water Use: We’re tracking CO2 emissions associated with energy and water use across all our office locations to uncover opportunities to reduce energy use, water use, and emissions. This effort supports our participation in Walmart’s Project Gigaton and enables us to budget for the purchase of 100 percent renewable energy across our firm.
  • CO2 Emission Tracking – Employee Work: We’ve captured the CO2 emissions associated with business travel and employee commuting and are analyzing how we can leverage remote working, video conferencing, and new office locations to reduce the number of miles we travel while maintaining quality client experiences.
  • Office Composting: We started a pilot composting program at our headquarters in Kansas City, and our office in Phoenix and have already diverted 10,000 pounds of waste from landfills in less than six months. We just completed a waste audit at our headquarters and plan to use that data to draft a “Zero Waste by 2030” plan.
  • ESG Funds for 401k: We added five new Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) funds to our 401k plan to allow employees the opportunity to directly invest dollars with organizations that intentionally contribute to the health and wellbeing of people and the planet while maintaining a focus on profits.

MEP 2040 Commitment

On October 14, we reinforced the Henderson 2040 Climate Pledge by becoming a signatory to the MEP 2040 Commitment. As a signatory of the MEP 2040 Commitment, Henderson has agreed to establish a company plan to reduce operational and embodied carbon across MEP systems on all projects, targeting zero by 2040.  Additionally, Henderson will continue to be actively engaged in the development and deployment of low-GWP refrigerants, will support the MEP+ industry in measuring and reducing embodied carbon in system components, and will request Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in our specifications.

The MEP 2040 Commitment aligns with Henderson’s sustainability mission statement, “To establish a regenerative mindset within our operations and design practice to realize solutions that restore, renew, and replenish sources of energy and materials while benefiting employees, clients, communities, and global ecological systems.”

Regenerative Design Focus Areas

Our regenerative goals orbit around four specific elements; carbon, water, waste, and health. Much like our operational goals, our design practice goals are sequential and designed to allow flexibility within each of our sectors to address unique, specific conditions. Over the past year, we’ve started making small adjustments to raise the bar on sustainability across all our design practices. Those small changes quickly add up when multiplied across the hundreds of projects we touch every year. Here are a few of the regenerative design areas we’ve been focused on:

  • Building Electrification: One of our focus areas has been the yearlong emphasis on the importance of building electrification and strategies to overcome the technical and perceived barriers to designing all-electric buildings. We’ve worked to create application guides that address how to design this way. For example, our rooftop unit (RTU) application guide identifies heat pump rooftop units as the preferred heating technology and notes, “selecting around heat pump RTUs helps support the sustainable policy of building electrification.” Adding this note sends a clear message to our designers and project managers that building electrification is a priority at Henderson and one they should be incorporating into their designs.
  • Water Conservation: We also worked with our technical directors to establish baseline fixtures that are known to reduce water consumption beyond code while maintaining performance. The default plumbing fixtures in our specifications and in our base drawings now exceed what is minimally required by most codes across the country. This seemingly small change in how we do things will passively save millions of gallons of water every year.
  • Healthy Buildings: We’ve incorporated language in our base specifications that aligns with the healthy material requirements of LEED, WELL, and Living Building rating systems. It’s another seemingly small step that demonstrates the importance we place on healthy indoor environments within the spaces we help design.
  • Refrigerants: We’re also helping lead the industry in the transition to CO2 based commercial refrigeration systems that significantly reduce GHG emissions and global warming potential (GWP). The CO2 refrigeration systems we’re designing can reduce GWP down to 1 from a factor of 2,000 or more leading to significant reductions in global GHG emissions.

Life-Cycle Carbon Reduction

We’ve also worked to enhance our energy modeling and PV design process, creating some revolutionary new tools that focus on analyzing and reducing life-cycle carbon.

  • Zero Waste and the Circular Economy Within the pursuit of zero material waste, one of our first DfMA (design for manufacturing and assembly)tools started with optimizing our duct work design through the creation of a duct module tool. This new tool can analyze the embodied carbon of different duct work layouts, allowing designers to select design scenarios that are less carbon intensive. The module helps us realize near-zero waste in the manufacturing process and, when disassembled and reused, will cut embodied carbon on subsequent installs to almost zero. The duct tool also enables building owners or tenants to treat duct work as an asset that can be inventoried, reused, or sold. This tool is the launching pad that will allow our designs to enter the circular economy. Looking towards the future, we’re taking traditional DfMA one step further to address the full life-cycle impact of materials through DfMAD (design for manufacturing and assembly, and disassembly).
  • The Water-Carbon Nexus: We’re paying attention to the carbon impacts of water consumption and looking for ways to reduce and reuse. Our water to carbon tool captures the carbon intensity of water used in a project, allowing our project teams to dial in and optimize water savings and associated life-cycle carbon emissions across projects.
  • Carbon Drawdown Planning: We’re also helping clients and organizations connect the dots between their climate goals and how they can support those goals via reductions in long-term operational carbon. Our carbon emissions modeling calculator allows our project teams to analyze estimated operational CO2 emissions based on a few project characteristics like energy use, climate zone, and regional grid carbon intensity. It also utilizes NREL data sets to predict future CO2 emissions over a 30-year period to help clients plan and prioritize energy and carbon reduction measures.

Building a Better World

We’re intentionally building leaders within each sector to both execute organizational level sustainability initiatives but also accelerate the rate at which our designs implement regenerative design strategies. Sustainability and regeneration are nothing without people and Henderson has made the commitment to invest in people who can bring regenerative design solutions to our clients. This is our honest attempt to build a better world.

Our pledge to lead regenerative and innovative design for a brighter, cleaner future demands a lot of each of the 1,000+ people at Henderson. As the sustainability director, I understand that it will take each of us, our clients, and our partners to make the enormous change needed. When addressing the monumental change he sought, Martin Luther King Jr. closed his speech to the audience at the 1960 Founder’s Day address at Spelman College saying, “If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.”  Let’s move forward, together. We’re here to help so please reach out if we can assist you.

Written By

Sustainability Director


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