Pulling focus - Morrison Hershfield's response to the climate crisis

The earth’s climate is changing, and so are the roles of engineers. As unpredictable and extreme weather patterns put pressure on the built environment, engineers and consultants are increasingly required to consider climate change in all aspects of our design practice. We spoke to Don McCallum, from Canada-based engineering and environmental consultancy Morrison Hershfield, about the opportunities the company has taken to contribute to carbon reduction and help ensure resilience to climate change across a broad range of projects.  

What’s your role at Morrison Hershfield?

I’m the Senior Vice President, Environment. I lead Morrison Hershfield’s environmental consulting practice, serving a wide range of clients in the infrastructure and natural resources sectors. After 25 years of environmental consulting experience, I’m passionate about helping clients reduce their environmental risk, as well as making the most of opportunities to address local and global environmental challenges.

Tell us about the work Morrison Hershfield does in the climate change space.

Environmentally friendly design is not new to us – we’ve been providing climate-focused solutions for decades. Over the years, we have designed green transportation plans and networks, zero-carbon buildings, renewable energy systems and efficient waste management systems. We’ve also developed several regional sustainability plans.

More recently, we’ve been involved with some of the most sustainable projects across North America and beyond. From designing high-performance LEED and Passive House buildings built with mass timber to incorporate low embodied carbon, to the design of new “electrification” infrastructure” – including charging stations, electrical storage and light rail.

Other projects assessed and mitigated expected fugitive emissions in landfills or examined the impacts of infrastructure on native/endangered species and their habitats.

What are your guiding principles when it comes to climate change response?

We have a climate change response plan in place, which aims to account for climate change vulnerability and risk and reduce embedded and operational carbon emissions in the building and infrastructure projects we design and deliver. We support the global goal of Net Zero Emissions by 2050.

As part of your climate response plan, you recently signed up to the FIDIC Climate Change Charter. How has this influenced the work you do?

Signing up to the FIDIC Climate Change Charter has provided a focus and guiding principles for Morrison Hershfield to take a coordinated, company-wide approach to our climate commitments.

As a result, we’ve initiated several significant changes to our practice. 

Firstly, we’ve developed and implemented a new internal community of practice focussed on climate change. Open to everyone in the firm, this community of practice is improving climate change awareness as well as helping our staff meet their professional obligations to consider climate change in all aspects of their design practice. The group is also actively developing new areas of practice to meet our clients’ rapidly evolving needs.

Secondly, we’ve established and staffed a new Climate Change department and service area with specific expertise in climate science, risk assessment and asset management. The department is currently focused on completing climate change risk and vulnerability assessments for horizontal and vertical infrastructure.

Thirdly, we’re running a pilot project within one of the firm’s business units to incorporate a climate change focus in every new client project. Depending on the results of the pilot, the plan is to implement this approach across the entire firm and the 5,000 new projects we take on annually.

Finally, we’re updating our greenhouse gas inventory (Scope, 1, 2 and 3) for the 2022 calendar year – which will form the basis for establishing Morrison Hershfield’s net zero commitments in the year to come.

Find out more

View and download the FICID Climate Change Charter

Read Morrison Hershfield’s 2022 Corporate Social Responsibility Report

Connect with Don on LinkedIn