DSSR sits down with Emma Meng, the most recent addition to our Sustainability team, to get her thoughts on working with DSSR, the increasing prominence of Net Zero targets, and the future of the industry.

“In my opinion, the term sustainability I quite clear; to be sustainable, it must meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future.”

My job title is a Sustainability Assistant. In my role, I mainly assist with BREEAM certifications. As a newly qualified BREEAM Assessor, I have just begun working on my own BREEAM projects, which I am very excited about.

While I was born and raised in the US, my mom is Manx and I have lived in the UK for a short period before. I always planned on moving back permanently, and after visiting Glasgow for the first time, I thought the city would be a good personal fit for me – it’s turned out to be a great decision!

My experience at DSSR has been a learning experience! I have gained so many different skills since starting work here. Even though I have two degrees in sustainability-related fields, seeing the real-world applications of my studies has taught me so much about the field that I could have never learned in the classroom.

MEP consultancies like DSSR can help companies to achieve net zero carbon by specifying low and zero carbon technologies for the buildings they are designing, as well as encouraging other companies to procure materials with low embodied carbon and encouraging the use of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

In my opinion, the term sustainability is quite clear. When something is sustainable, it meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations. If you take that concept and apply it to the three tenants of sustainability (People, Planet, Profit), you have the entire field of sustainability: making sure people’s physical and mental health, financial health, and the health of the environment are strong today and will continue to thrive in the future. While clear, it is also definitely quite a broad term, but I think it works to start the conversation that hopefully leads to a better understanding of concepts such as energy efficiency and the circular economy.

Net Zero is a concept that was virtually unheard of in 2012, but is now dominating energy conversations from both the public and private sectors. I think the growth of Net Zero as a concept reflects the growing consensus about how dire the climate emergency is, as companies now realize that just recycling waste and planting a few trees each year isn’t enough. In the near future, I would expect to see the majority of both SMEs and large corporations set Net Zero targets, and begin taking significant action to reach these targets.

To me, radical change is the only answer for businesses and governments. This radical change may be uncomfortable for these institutions, but this will help make sustainable choices on an individual basis easier. Beyond this, even if there is some discomfort that comes along with reducing one’s own personal carbon footprint, it is important also to think about the discomfort that comes from not taking any action at all. While we are pretty lucky up in Glasgow, much of the rest of the world is being faced with more and more uncomfortable, dangerous, and outright deadly weather conditions, from record heatwaves to more and more frequent “once in a lifetime” storms.

This is difficult for me to answer, as I am typically working with people who have already chosen the more sustainable option by choosing to have their building BREEAM certified. I do think in general more and more people are turning to more sustainable solutions to save money. For example, getting electric vehicles in response to rising petrol prices, or installing air-sourced heat pumps to save on energy bills.

An article in the Guardian stated, “The word ‘sustainability’ should be banned from technical and political discourse; it has become so corrupted as to not only be meaningless, but to actually obscure the real issues that must be dealt with.”Others have said it is far from meaningless, but that it has become “such a broad term, it has become very generic”, used in place of better terms i.e. energy efficiency or the circular economy.