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Insights What is Engineering Net Zero, and is it possible?

Meet Rebecca Berzinis, Senior Project Manager in North Carolina at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. Her role centres around the environment, preparing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation, ecological studies and permits, and providing sustainability support.

Rebecca, what is Engineering Net Zero (ENZ), and how are you involved?

It's AtkinsRéalis 's strategy to collaborate with clients, governments and stakeholders to reduce climate-destroying emissions and decarbonize all markets and sectors from transport to industry.

In the US, Engineering Net Zero is a term unfamiliar to most clients. We do not have laws in the US specifying net zero targets like the UK, which intends to be net zero by 2050. Therefore the Engineering Net Zero market is not nearly as mature in the US as in other parts of the world. Most of my time is spent educating clients and US employees on concepts such as Engineering Net Zero, sustainability, and resiliency. I have made numerous presentations on sustainability goal setting, Envision, resiliency, and DecarbonomicsTM. I've also been a project quality manager on several ongoing Envision projects with our aviation clients.

Photo of Rebecca smiling towards the camera

What led you to work in the space?

I've worked as a scientist in the environmental field for 25 years. My experience before Atkins involved supporting a private company's sustainability programs by assisting in developing sustainability goals and policy, training employees on compliance with the policy, and providing data to support sustainability disclosures. I also supported clients with corporate sustainability performance. When I joined Atkins 15 years ago, I started collaborating with engineers to avoid and minimize impacts on natural resources such as wetlands and protected species.

Over the years, as sustainability and resiliency have become more of a concern in the US, I've gained more knowledge about achieving Engineering Net Zero through becoming an EnvisionTM Sustainability Professional (ENV SP). Most professionals in our field in the US are familiar with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®), the green building certification program for buildings and spaces. Envision is a similar rating system framework that can be applied to all types of civil infrastructure. Envision is a holistic, consistent, consensus-based framework and rating system that provides a flexible system of criteria and performance objectives to thoroughly examine the sustainability and resiliency of civil infrastructure. Reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions is a major focus of Envision.

What is your team doing that's interesting?

We're working on several aviation sector projects pursuing Envision verification. While the projects are different, we provide professional guidance to our clients on how to incorporate sustainable practices into all phases of a project's life cycle, from planning, design, and construction through operation and maintenance and end-of-life phases. What is interesting and exciting is how the Envision verification process can provide a way to celebrate our client's accomplishments and show commitment to enhancing the environment and delivering lasting and meaningful social, economic, and environmental benefits.

How is your team inspiring you?

Traditionally, scientists and engineers worked on the same project but at different phases of project delivery with little collaboration. Scientists typically contribute to a project at the siting phase and provide environmental clearances in the planning and early design phase in the form of permits or other authorizations. Then, engineers work on designing the project. I'm working on projects pursuing sustainability, resiliency, and/or Engineering Net Zero goals, where scientists and engineers are brought together in the earliest stages of project development. It ensures we help our clients identify and implement improvements into their projects that would benefit them, their projects, and our communities and stakeholders. When scientists and engineers work together, inspiring solutions can come to light.

How will you bring your passion for ENZ to life?

I plan to continue to educate others about the role that they can play in Engineering Net Zero, whether it is our clients, employees or stakeholders. We can all contribute to a more sustainable future.

What is your biggest concern about the future?

I worry that the world's problems regarding climate change are so large and overwhelming that apathy takes root, and people feel that catastrophic climate change is inevitable.

What makes you confident that AtkinsRéalis can make ENZ possible?

Global problems can be solved if many work together to avoid catastrophic climate change. Professionals like you and me can be part of this approach. AtkinsRéalis is at the forefront of this mission, leading engineering and industry to achieve Net Zero Carbon as rapidly as possible by helping our clients manage climate risk and build resilience. Our global experts offer holistic, cutting-edge solutions and expertise at the forefront of sustainable best-practice. From Biodiversity Net Gain to protecting and investing in Natural Capital and providing nature-based solutions across markets and sectors, we're helping clients optimize their path to Net Zero Carbon.

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