Henderson Companies Sustainability Update: April 2023

As a signatory to the MEP 2040 Commitment, Henderson Companies is committed to achieving net zero carbon on all our projects by 2040 as part of our vision to build a better world. To us, that is through both the environments we provide for employees and the building spaces we help bring to life.

As Henderson’s director of sustainability, I tuned in to the press conference held on March 20 by the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and want to share some takeaways. The press conference focused on their AR6 Synthesis Report that summarizes the state of global knowledge about climate change. One of the first slides in the presentation issued a stark warning: our current pace and scale of climate action are not sufficient to tackle climate change.

“We are walking when we should be sprinting,” said Dr. Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC, when commenting about the lack of climate progress being made. The following couple of slides were even more dire noting the intensifying and widespread adverse impacts of climate change unfolding before our eyes. If you turned the press conference off at that point, the despair would be overwhelming. But if you stuck around there was hope.

After watching the press conference and reading the Sixth Assessment Synthesis Report, I was encouraged and energized by the overarching message being conveyed, “Feasible, effective, and low-cost options for mitigation and adaptation are already available.” It was clear we have everything we need to solve the climate crisis. All the technology exists today. There is adequate financing. And we have all the resources needed to act. We just need to scale up and sprint.

 

The Benefits of Near-Term Action

Within the report, Figure SPM.7 stood out to me in the Summary for Policymakers document. Figure SPM.7 lists 43 mitigation options available today and identifies the cost and net emission reductions for each. Looking at the figure through the lens of a sustainability director, I went through and identified if and how each of Henderson Companies’ sustainability initiatives was addressing the 43 mitigation options that, in the near-term, would cut global GHG emission by nearly half by 2030. I realized that firms like Henderson with clearly defined climate goals and a culture of sustainability can directly contribute to over 24 of these global mitigation options that have the potential to reduce net emissions up to 80% by 2030. That’s a big deal. We need to scale up and sprint!

Henderson’s Near-Term Actions

In the first quarter of 2023, we’ve made progress toward our climate goals, both internally and externally for many of our clients, and we’ve been focusing on many of the most impactful mitigation options listed in Figure SPM.7.

  • We’re well on our way to sourcing 100% of our electricity from renewable sources. Earlier this year we installed on-site PV at our corporate headquarters, and we have an 18-year contract in place for the remaining grid-sourced electricity to purchase 100% renewable energy for the building. Our headquarters accounts for approximately 60% of companywide electricity use.
  • We’re wrapping up Henderson’s first annual GHG inventory to help us plan, manage, and uncover the most impactful places to reduce our GHG emissions across the company.
  • Our journey to zero waste by 2030 in all our office locations is also underway. A recent waste audit demonstrated that our composting efforts have reduced waste to landfill by 45%. In our HQ, we generated 13,000 pounds of compost in eight months! The waste audit revealed that if we work on a few behavioral changes, our diversion rate should jump from 68% to around 80%. Our 2023 goal was to reduce waste to landfill to 50% so we’re excited to be overachieving.
  • Supporting a culture of sustainability as we work to meet our 2040 goals depends on our people. I’m excited to share that Henderson has launched our latest people resource group, Need4Green, to help cultivate that culture. Need4Green is organized around the central principle that people are the key to unlocking a regenerative future. The intent of Need4Green is to act as a catalyst in discovering, supporting, and living out regenerative solutions that restore, renew, and replenish our communities and shared resources. The group’s regenerative foundation responds to the urgency of the climate crisis where in one generation all levels of society, from individuals to national governments, must act courageously, boldly, and fearlessly to uncover and implement regenerative solutions.

Progress toward the MEP 2040 Commitment

In the short time since becoming a signatory to the MEP 2040 Commitment in 2022, we’ve put our expertise to work embarking on multiple all-electric, zero carbon new construction and renovation projects that incorporate on-site renewable energy production, battery storage systems, grid integrated controls (to shift demand and exploit low-carbon electricity), rainwater harvesting and graywater reuse systems, EV charging, and of course high-efficiency building systems. The strategies implemented in these forward-thinking projects are informing designs in each of our industries, helping to accelerate the pace and scale of our climate actions.

The newly opened single terminal at the Kansas City International Airport is a recent and notable project that exemplifies our commitment to sustainable and regenerative design. Henderson was the lead engineer on the terminal project and designed all-electric power systems for airport operations. The facility became the first and largest LEED v4 GOLD BD+C: NC certified terminal/concourse project in the Midwestern United States and just the second in the entire country.

Another recent development I’m excited about is a new corporate policy to accelerate building electrification and operational decarbonization. The new policy states, “For projects located in ASHRAE climate zones 1, 2, and 3, rooftop units 5 tons and smaller shall be heat pump type.” This policy is intended to not only avoid GHG emissions associated with the use of natural gas equipment in our projects, but also send a market signal that identifies a shift away from fossil fuel systems toward all-electric systems that exploit the rapidly decarbonizing electricity grid. Because our core values focus on providing the best client experience in the industry, this initiative includes walking alongside our clients to build the business case, working through technical hurdles, engaging stakeholders, and raising awareness on how this, and future initiatives, support sustainability, resiliency, and larger global regenerative systems.

With momentum building around sustainability and regenerative thinking in the industry, we want to also provide an update on the changes we’re making to do our part to end the climate crisis. We’ve created a new Regenerative & Sustainable Design page on our website that provides more information on our approach and highlights the key components we’re focused on to deliver climate positive buildings.

As the UN report shared, there are already 43 mitigation options available today so let’s pick up the pace and tackle the climate crisis together. Whether designing a net positive energy project or a zero-carbon facility, we can help you through the design process. Together with Henderson Engineers, we’re focused on helping clients and organizations meet their climate goals by supporting zero carbon master planning and infrastructure transitioning.

Written By
BRIAN ALESSI

Sustainability Director

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