Get to know Brent Trenga, Kingspan’s Director of Sustainability for North America

Tell us about your career journey thus far

I studied architecture at Penn State University and was fortunate enough to have James Wines as my thesis professor in 5th year. I spent my thesis year researching and developing a solution to building permanent structure in non-permanent environments such as tidal waterways. James Wines is an architect who focuses on environmental design. He founded a New York City-based architectural firm in 1970 called Site, and is considered one of the fathers of green building. He drew hand sketches of skyscrapers covered in trees, moss and plants – really pushing the envelope in building design. His focus on green architecture before it was called sustainability had a huge influence on me. So much so, that any time I am in New York City, I reach and out we try to grab a bite to eat together.

After graduating, I moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and went to work for Neil Stevenson Architects a small to medium sized, very progressive architectural firm. Recognizing that there was a better way to build, I got my LEED Accredited Professionals designation in 2005 which helped the firm go after its first LEED projects.

The next phase of my career journey began when I decided to leave my job in 2008 to co-found GreenWizard, a tech startup and brainchild of a client and friend I met while doing architecture. The company developed the first database of sustainable building products which architects could source and research. The company partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide supporting building product data for direct submission to LEED Online

That experience connected me with a lot of great people in building design and construction including people from Kingspan. I was interested in Kingspan because of the company’s commitment to net zero energy which is truly embedded in the company’s culture and philosophy. In 2015, I left the software company and was hired as Kingspan’s Director of Education and Sustainability. It was a fantastic fit from the start and that is the journey that led me to my past 6 years with Kingspan.

Describe your role at Kingspan

My role essentially encompasses three areas. The first part of my role is external communication. Aimed at customers and the industry at large, this communication focuses on educating the marketplace on sustainability and the impact of Kingspan’s products on health and wellness and embodied carbon.

Internal communication is another part of my role. Here the focus is on educating internal company stakeholders about our strategy and execution across all of areas of the business related to issues such as product certification, compliance and product development. Another part of this education is working with our global teams to determine what is going on in the market, what is leading the market and how do we need to position our products and our business.

The third area of my role involves working as part of the Planet Passionate team. This team is made up of leaders globally across our business to represent and drive Planet Passionate commitments and lend support for delivering on these commitments across all Kingspan divisions.

How were the Planet Passionate goals developed?

In 2011, we rolled out our Net Zero Energy Commitment, targeting 2020. About two years before successfully coming to the end of that journey, we evaluated the lessons learned and began baselining where we were with our business. We examined the mega trends and huge issues impacting the environment, how they are applicable to Kingspan and what commitments we can make that will have the biggest impact on our business and on our environment directly.

During a workshop over several days, the global sustainability team began the process of road mapping the major Planet Passionate commitments. This was later refined and presented to Kingspan’s CEO Gene Murtagh and aligned them with his vision, including setting a very aggressive timeline of 2030 to deliver on these commitments.

To date, what are you most proud of in terms of working toward Planet Passionate goals?

I am incredibly proud of how the leadership within the insulated metal panels division strategized right out of the gate, breaking down the Planet Passionate targets and determining who the senior leaders were over each one of these targets, what support they were going to need, and how we were going to manage progress internally and externally to keep us on track for success.

One of our best wins to date related to diverting waste from landfills and keeping materials in the economy occurred in the Insulated Metal Panels North America division. When we kicked off Planet Passionate, this division was the worst contributor of waste to landfill in the entire Kingspan group. We took on this challenge and executed the biggest turnaround in the entire group.

For example, in the DeLand plant, we track all waste streams, sort and separate waste and work with our suppliers and vendors to recycle materials. We also upcycle foam scrap into ceiling tiles, thanks to a partnership with Belter Tech in Georgia. The program has been so successful, that it is being replicated and rolled out in all Kingspan plants across north America.

I am really proud of the whole team working together, understanding how important the zero waste to landfill target is and delivering on it.

What advice do you have for architects or specifiers who are looking to design more sustainable buildings?

I think the best piece of advice is to start looking for companies that have made big commitments to drive change in their business and products to combat global warming. It is a win/win for architects and general contractors to align with brands and manufacturers that share their values as well as support the ecosystem and the industry driving to make these changes very quickly.

Now for the serious question – what do you like to do for fun?

I love living in Charleston. We moved to Charleston because of its proximity to the ocean. Living near the ocean is a great connection to nature and honestly, I really don’t feel right unless I live next to an ocean. It runs in the family, my wife, 2 young kids and puppy all feel the same way.

Ice hockey is a hobby of mine. While it may not be the typical hobby for living in the South, I find playing in a men’s hockey league a great way to unwind after a stressful day trying to save the planet.

I also love to travel. That love started when I studied abroad in Italy for eight months in college. Immersing yourself in a culture provides a great perspective and understanding of the people and the place.

Now, I travel with my wife and we try to take the kids on two memorable trips each year they will talk about forever – like their first trip to the Arizona desert or going to Puerto Rico and seeing a rain forest for the first time. Now that things are looking better to travel to Europe, its time to have them join me on a trip back to Ireland.

Just Added

Term of the Day

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) is a method to compare various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. One metric ton of a greenhouse gas is converted to the equivalent number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential.

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