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Sustainability 101

Sustainability 101: What does it all mean?

Maggie Kearns Francis

March 16, 2021

Sustainability is a common term used in the engineering, architecture, construction, and planning industries. It can mean many things and have many applications. Understanding our impact on the environment and monitoring our use of resources is important to sustainability efforts. By now, we’ve all heard “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” but sustainability is much more than that. Sustainability efforts are important as we continue to measure our effect on the environment around us and growing climate concerns.


There are many terms related to sustainability. How familiar are you with these terms? We want to offer a simple guide:


  • Sustainability: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
  • Resiliency: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change
  • Green infrastructure: a cost-effective, resilient approach to manage wet weather impacts that provides many community benefits
  • Renewable energy: energy from a source that is not depleted when used (wind, solar, etc.)
  • Sustainable urbanism: practice of building a city promoting long-term viability by reducing consumption, waste, and harmful impacts on people and the environment
  • Permeable pavement: surfacing technique that allows for infiltration of stormwater runoff
  • Carbon footprint: the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.
  • Energy conservation: the prevention of the wasteful use of energy, especially to ensure its continuing availability
  • Energy efficiency: using less energy to perform the same task, eliminating energy waste
  • Green buildings: design, construction, or operation of building reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment
  • Water conservation: using water efficiently, reducing unnecessary waste
  • Water management: control and movement of water resources to minimize damage to life and property and to maximize efficient beneficial use
  • Net Zero: carbon neutrality, achieved with zero carbon dioxide emissions by removing or eliminating emissions altogether
  • Living Building: Regenerative, self-sufficient buildings that remain within the resource limits of their sit and have a positive impact on the natural systems around them

ms Sustainability Initiatives

Our team of sustainability experts continue to help our clients reach their sustainability goals while we also work hard to achieve our internal sustainability goals! Our corporate sustainability measures continue to expand, as we do our part to reduce waste, conserve energy, and more.


Some of our recent initiatives include:


  • Making various building updates, including replacing old rooftop units, using non-ozone depleting refrigerant, installing new building automation systems, and more
  • Reducing paper use with the introduction of an internal digital newsletter and switching to an electronic communication approval process
  • Recycling fluorescent and CFL light bulbs

Helping You Achieve Sustainable Project Goals

Our diverse mix of in-house sustainability experts connect full-service expertise with cost-effective, green solutions. In fact, our team includes LEED® accredited, Green Globes®, and Envision Sustainability professionals, ensuring you have the right fit for your next project. Not sure which green building certification system would best fit your project? Check out more information on each here.


Our sustainability experts include engineers and architects in a range of discipline areas. Their specialties include environmental design, architectural design, mechanical and electrical design, transportation design, planning services, and more. Combining this expertise with our full-service offerings and the latest technologies, we find sustainable and cost-effective solutions to meet your project needs.


Have questions about sustainability? Contact us today to learn more.