When the opportunity arose to lead PCL Construction’s Sustainable Retrofits + Decarbonization Team, Mark Henderson jumped at it. A 15-year veteran of PCL, he enjoyed his time managing PCL’s small contractor services division, Special Projects. But the combination of a growing sector of the business and the emerging imperative for sustainable construction in the face of accelerating climate change drew him in. “The opportunity to lead help clients meet their decarbonization goals and work on something important to all of us, something that builds healthy, resilient communities, gets me going every day,” he says. “There are a lot of interesting and, I would argue, business critical developments in this area.”

Mark holds a Bachelor of Engineering Sciences degree in structural engineering from the University of Western Ontario. He received his P.Eng. designation in 2007, the same year he joined PCL as a field coordinator in Toronto. His attention to client needs and meticulous planning skills propelled him into leadership roles on some of PCL’s most iconic projects and – most recently – to his current role spearheading a refined service offering focused on helping clients navigate complex retrofit challenges to achieve their decarbonization goals.

Mark says PCL brings several strengths to the table that can be leveraged to overcome every client’s unique decarbonization challenges. The first is our people, both in-house subject matter experts in areas like building envelopes, building systems and sustainability, and our personnel in the field. “We have technically superior superintendents and project managers who know how to operate in live environments with minimal to no impact on client operations,” he says.

Next is our depth of experience with decarbonization and building retrofits. As Canada’s largest general contractor and a company with more than 100 years of experience, PCL has delivered a variety of retrofits, including some ground-breaking global firsts. Partnering with an integrated project team, PCL delivered what was at the time the largest residential retrofit in the world, securing Passive House certification under the internationally recognized EnerPHit program. The Ken Soble Tower in Hamilton, Ontario is an 18 storey multi-unit residential building originally built in 1967. It is now an ultra-low-energy building that has seen a remarkable 94% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Ken Soble is an example of how affordable housing can be sustainable, and of how sustainability drives affordability.

PCL’s third strength is our extensive experience with complex project planning, logistics, scheduling and budgeting, all key elements in helping clients make educated decisions on how and when they will proceed with decarbonization. “Collaboration is key,” Mark says. “To maximize value, we need to engage as early as possible with owners, consultants, trades and our own in-house experts to create optimized solutions that meet client needs.”

The retrofit market is rapidly emerging and still trying to find its feet. The federal government has a mandate to be net zero by 2050. Other governments and private sector companies have made similar commitments. When you consider the number of buildings that need to be retrofitted to help meet that goal, the task ahead may seem daunting.

And many building owners remain concerned about high vacancy and interest rates and are cautious about investing in major retrofits. “This is where PCL excels,” says Mark. “We can help clients assess their asset portfolios and develop manageable, short-, medium- and long-term plans.” Whether the desired retrofit is deep or shallow, adding insulation or over-hauling complete HVAC systems and building envelopes, PCL can help lead the way.

Mark says it’s an important journey for the sake of the climate, our communities and building owners. “Companies with strong ESG mandates that lease space downtown, for example, want to work out of a decarbonized building,” he says. “Astute clients looking to get ahead of that trend are already reaching out to have PCL validate and implement cost effective decarbonization strategies… and that’s where they’ll see returns to their bottom line.”