IMEG sustainability director: ‘Little changes can make tangible impacts’

Adam McMillen is IMEG’s National Director of Sustainability. Adam talks about his goals, industry challenges, and his bucket list in the following Q&A. 

Describe your goals as IMEG’s National Director of Sustainability. 

My goal is to scale IMEG’s sustainability impact across the country. Given our increasing size and the number of high-impact projects, small changes applied across the firm lead to big results in carbon reduction and taking care of people, communities, and our planet. The more our teams embrace this rewarding work, the greater impact we’ll have as a firm. So, I guess my goal is to help others fall in love with this work. 

You grew up in a passive solar home, right? Did that experience draw you to a career in sustainability? 

It certainly was a part of it. Both of my grandfathers and my parents embody the idea that you do the most with what you have. On our family farm, that all starts with the soil and the sun. One of my grandfathers read and conceived ideas about passive solar homes, so he, my dad, and several others from our community executed this vision in building our passive solar home. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but now I think that spirit embodied my upbringing and translates into my work today. 

What is one of the biggest sustainability challenges facing the AEC industry, and how can IMEG help clients respond or prepare? 

I’ve had the great pleasure to see the sustainability “industry” mature over the past 20 years. While in its early stages, sustainability was something we pushed forward to get on more projects. Today, it’s accelerating in the AEC industry—and the question is how the sustainability industry will rise to this new challenge. We must train the workforce to do it well and instill confidence in these ideas. The key path forward is through education and clear communication among our own staff. As we embrace new technologies and techniques like automated data analysis and AI, we can then transfer these ideas to our clients who, in turn, can adopt and implement them in their own organizations.  

IMEG has its own sustainability policy. What is that all about? 

We are currently relaunching a policy that we first rolled out in 2018, which was focused on just internal operations within each office, like recycling, employee wellness, lunch catering, and local travel. The new policy coming this year will focus on three key areas: corporate action, office build-outs, and office operations. (Listen to an overview of the new plan on the IMEG podcast.) 

What are your hobbies? How do you relax and unwind? 

I have three younger kids, so most of my hobbies are interconnected with their activities— learning, growing, and playing with them. I love to stay active, whether visiting national parks, hiking, fishing, rucking (walking with weight on your back), or doing CrossFit. I also read books and listen to podcasts on raising kids and how our lives today connect back to our evolution and nature. I also dive into spirituality and God’s positive influence in all our lives. In most of my free time, you’ll find me out in the woods, trying to get my hands in the dirt, or building something. I think, subconsciously, this all connects me back to my farming roots; that’s what usually helps me relax the most. 

Do you have anything on a “bucket list” that you wish to do or achieve in the future, either personally or professionally? 

Though my first degree was aeronautics, I haven’t flown a plane for 20 years and want to get back into that someday, maybe through teaching or learning gliding. I also want to take longer backpacking trips in remote areas more often and be completely off-grid in the woods with family and friends. Professionally, I want to have a tangible impact on the next generation, inspiring them to understand the importance, value, and rewarding nature of sustainability work. I hope to impart a true understanding of how little changes in our own lives and across a big platform, like the AEC industry, can make tangible impacts in the short time we each have on this earth. 

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