Northrop’s journey on climate change

Actions speak louder than words, the adage goes – and when it comes to climate change and the impact that all of us have on our environment, action is certainly where the focus is for Northrop. 
 
“As a respected engineering consulting firm, one that aspires to be a climate action leader, it’s important that we incorporate our knowledge of steps we can take towards a carbon-neutral, climate-resilient built environment into conversations with clients,” says Chris Buntine, Associate Sustainability Manager. 
 
“This is new territory for many engineers, given that it is only recently that climate action commitments have become mainstream in the construction industry.  Now every engineer, every designer, has a huge responsibility to care about the impact their work has on climate.”
 
“We need to design differently and embrace change, but this runs counter to the way that engineers have been trained which is to minimise risk and uncertainty.”
 
In addition to signing up to Engineers Declare and committing to advocating for carbon-neutrality and climate resilience, the business is taking very practical steps to change the way many projects are tackled. 
 
Creating a carbon-neutral future
 
This has led Northrop to harness its collective ingenuity to build practical knowledge whereby over 50 teams within our company have to define and implement climate action goals. It’s viewed by Northrop as an investment in our capabilities.
 
“We look at climate action through the lenses of materials, energy, water and habitat, and explore ways they relate to each discipline,” says Chris. 
 
The initiative is currently running with each group allocating a certain number of hours per month to exploring and developing climate-related solutions. 
 
“Everyone knows a little bit about climate change and certain initiatives we can do,” says Civil Engineer Stephanie Noble. “However, by nature, engineers don’t want to sit in a client meeting and propose certain solutions or ideas that might typically be outside their traditional area of expertise.”
 
“That’s why building our knowledge internally is so important, as it gives people the tools, they need to evolve our designs and in turn give confidence in becoming advocates.”
 
Key activities that have emerged over recent months have included green street design, reducing operational emissions, climate change risk and impacts, wetlands design as well as guidance on green concrete.
 
Stephanie says, “We’ve been used to operating within the box of decisions guided by codes and standards, but with this type of stuff there’s no tried and tested measures, so it’s a challenge – but a very exciting one.”
 
Taking steps in the right direction
 
For Northrop, it’s imperative that the journey to true carbon neutrality is being walked, not just talked about. 
 
“A lot of firms may be certified carbon neutral in their day-to-day business, for example, their office may be carbon neutral, but it doesn’t flow through to the services they’re offering their clients,” says Chris. 
 
“The big opportunity for climate impact by engineers lies within the enormous sphere of influence to make positive change through the buildings, precincts and infrastructure that we create for our clients.” 
 
“By investing in our capabilities and our practical knowledge, we’re building the experience we need to have those informed conversations with clients.” 
 
At Northrop, we are gearing up to go on this journey with every client and every project. It is an opportunity for positive impact that is not only critical to a carbon-neutral future, but represents an existing opportunity to help our clients achieve their climate action goals, too. 
 
Contributor(s)
Associate Sustainability Manager
Civil Engineer
Author(s): 
Chris BuntineStephanie Noble

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