Engineered Systems: Ash, welcome to the broadcast. Could you please start out by introducing yourself to those who are tuning in?

Ash Awad: I'm Ash Awad, and I’ve been with McKinstry for 20 years. I'm a mechanical engineer by academic training and am licensed in the state of Washington.

Engineered Systems: You mentioned you've been with McKinsey for 20 years, and you have 25-plus years in the industry as a whole. Tell us what it is about McKinsey that makes it such a great place to work, seeing that you've spent the last two decades there. 

Awad: I think McKinstry has this special focus on people that I believe all companies talk about. And I think it's really quite special when you find a company that connects with you as an individual and has a set of values that you believe in and can relate to from a professional and a personal perspective. And when I think about McKinstry, I’ve always — from the day that I started to today — felt that we watch over our people. I know I've had great mentoring and support for and from McKinstry and I've watched us do the same thing for many people. The values we stand for are just fantastic. I've jokingly said that I'll be with McKinstry until I get fired for gross incompetence, which could happen any day (haha). I'm very fond of the company, if that's not obvious.

Engineered Systems: The firm recently made headlines by signing on to the Climate Pledge. Can you inform those who are tuning in what exactly the Climate Pledge is and why you guys are so proud to be a part of that?



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Awad: The pledge was actually started by Amazon and an organization called Global Optimism. Amazon signed on to a Climate Pledge, really stating what they would do to reduce their carbon footprint specifically over the next 20 years. McKinstry signed on to the Climate Pledge so that we can also made our commitment known. But, most importantly, what we really liked about the Climate Pledge is the idea that many other companies were coming together from all types of industries to collaborate and think deeply about how are we going to tackle the climate crisis? How can we do it together? How can we do it by sharing the best ideas, the best thinking across multiple industries and not just remain siloed in a particular industry. Our industry, the built environment, contributes about 40%, sometimes as much as 50%, to the greenhouse gases that are really causing this climate crisis. Buildings are not in balance with the natural environment. There are many, many nonresidential and many residential buildings in our industry. We all, collectively, have to pull together — not just within our industry but outside our industry — to imagine the best, most innovative ideas. And, so, we signed on to the Climate Pledge to make our commitment known, particularly our slightly more aggressive commitment than the climate pledge called for, but also in recognition that we need to collaborate not only within our industry but outside of our industry as well.

Engineered Systems: Now, for the record, McKinstry has pledged to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions no later than 2040. That's pretty exciting stuff!

Awad: Within the Climate Pledge, there are a few tenants. One of them was that you had to actually be neutral by 2040. Our stated goal is that we're going to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2025. And we're going to zero by 2030. You know, we deeply believe we're in the midst of a climate crisis. And although we believe that a 20-year horizon is not wrong, we recognize that for us to do the work that we're doing for our clients — universities, schools, hospitals, and others that are thinking deeply about how to decarbonize their own built environment — we thought that we needed to lead and that we needed to take a more aggressive stance, and so 50% by 2025, for us, and then 100% by 2030. 

Now, we're also going to make sure that we create two other very specific prongs, if you will, to our program. I mentioned one, to really deeply engage with our clients to help them imagine how to transform their carbon footprint that might actually relate to very different relationships with utilities. Utilities in the built environment have got to be in better balance so that we can create buildings that are better balanced with the natural environment. There's a lot of collaboration outside of McKinstry that we are poised to execute and have the expertise to deliver upon. The third prong for us is that we actually need to continue to do more for the communities that we're in. We have to do more to empower our people to actually do more for themselves to decarbonize their lives. So, we're making pretty significant investments to charitable organizations that we think are really leading the way, like Climate Solutions, to allow them to keep enacting their policies. 

We're also thinking, what can we do for our own people to not allow them the time to volunteer, but is there some innovative program that we can come up with that allows our people to be more aggressive about how they decarbonize their own lives? We're doing more than just decarbonizing our operations and our fleet. We're trying to kind of create this broader, more interesting tapestry of how we're taking on the climate crisis.

How exactly does McKinstry propose to cut carbon emissions? How has it accomplished similar tasks on its recent projects, such as the Catalyst facility? What advice does Ash have for consulting/specifying engineers? To hear the rest of the conversation, watch the Mechanical Marvels video or listen to the Ash Awad’s Percussive Maintenance podcast episode.