Ask the Expert: Michael Mousa
Winner of the CAGBC Award for Emerging Green Leader 2022
CAGBC Staff on October 12, 2022
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The CAGBC Emerging Green Leader Award recognizes a deserving student or young professional who has made a significant contribution to advocating for, educating, or practicing green building and/or community development. The 2022 award went to Michael Mousa, a Sustainability Consultant with DIALOG. Michael’s achievements in advocacy and community building has established him as an emerging leader in the field. Through his involvement with the Carbon Leadership Forum Toronto and Toronto Clean Energy Partnership, and his mentorship of young engineers at the University of Toronto, Michael’s passion for climate action is inspiring. In this interview, he shares his motivation and how he draws inspiration from his surroundings to develop solutions that are mindful of the environment.
Tell us about your career and how you came to find yourself in your current role.
I’m a Sustainability Consultant at DIALOG, a multi-disciplinary design practice. From working with design teams on a single building project to working with organizations to decarbonize their building portfolios, I work on a wide range of projects in my role.
I’m not going to lie and say I wanted to be a Sustainability Consultant since I was a young child, but for some reason, I distinctly remember the first time I learned about climate change. It was in my Grade 4 science class, where we learned about hairspray and its impact on the ozone layer. I remember feeling concerned, but as a nine year-old, I figured someone else would solve the problem.
Fast forward to applying to University – as a first-generation Canadian, there was a lot of pressure for me to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer (shout out if you can relate), and I chose engineering school. It was there where my passion for sustainable design was formed. Ozone depletion from aerosoles became complex issues facing our built environment, environmental justice, and sustainable building design. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to work in all types of sustainability related jobs, including research of low impact development, building envelope design, and as a sustainability consultant now for a number of years.
Of the various projects you have worked on, does one stand out for you?
Choosing just one is hard – but I just wrapped up a project that I’m really proud of. I worked with a non-profit affordable seniors housing provider in Alberta to create their Sustainability Framework. The framework outlines a path to advance sustainability goals over the next five years through clear principles, performance indicators, and strategies using a three pillar approach: social, environmental, and economic sustainability.
I was inspired by my clients and learned a lot from them on this one. Throughout the journey, they continuously emphasized the importance of social sustainability and understood that the housing they provide is an essential element that contributes to their community’s quality of life. They really understood the impact they have on their seniors, staff, city, and the environment, and I’m really proud of what we came up with together.
What do you believe are some of the key issues / opportunities facing the industry?
In my experience, I’ve really seen our industry growing towards a ‘people-first’ mentality, or ‘social sustainability’. In addition to addressing climate change, there are growing expectations to also address the impacts of buildings and developments on humans (as there should be!). Big uptake in Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) frameworks and reporting has contributed to this, but even in my own experience, my clients want to know how their actions impact people.
This has really forced me to grow in my own role, where I used to be laser focused on carbon emission reductions and strategies (I still am), to now approach sustainability from a perspective of health, justice, and equity. I see this as a real growth opportunity for young professionals in the industry too.
What advice do you have for other young professionals looking to make their mark in the green building industry?
Our industry is constantly evolving – one thing my mentor has told me is that my adaptability / flexibility in my work is one of my greatest strengths. I would encourage others to embrace the unknown, accept that you won’t have all the answers, and don’t let that stop you from trying. For example, before I started in the industry, I couldn’t tell you anything about leading the procurement of renewable energy, but now I can say I helped procure the largest single-sloped solar array in the United States.
My other advice is to volunteer. I know this sounds obvious, but I don’t think I would be where I am in my career if I hadn’t.
Finally, if you don’t already have a mentor, sign up for a mentorship program! I’ve been so fortunate to have uplifting mentors who I can thank for career advice, resources, and keeping my spirits up during tough times.
If I can add advice to established professionals in the field as well: make the space for young professionals to thrive. Being a young professional in this industry is not easy, but leaders in the field can help and it only benefits the industry as a whole in the end!
You were recently named Emerging Green Leader as part of the CAGBC’ Awards which recognize leadership and green building excellence. What does it mean to you to be recognized in this way?
Everything! As someone who is often the youngest person in the ‘meeting room’, being recognized and embraced by my industry early in my career really helped validate my experiences and accomplishments.
Being a young professional in this field can be challenging. I’ve had days where I felt insecurity and self-doubt, but have been fortunate to have incredible peers and mentors to lean on. Awards like this are a great way to keep young professionals engaged and hopeful that this industry is the right place for them.
A huge thank you to Canada Green Building Council for this award and to the industry for supporting me. I’m motivated to work hard and prove everyone who believed in me right.