With the Net Zero Conference, Drew Shula Aims to Inspire Radical Transformation

The annual Net Zero Conference is an opportunity to share sustainability breakthroughs and thought leadership as the urgency of the climate crisis deepens.

Stephen M. Hilton
Net Zero Conference founder, Drew Shula, awarding Steve Hilton, chairman of the board of the Conrad Hilton Foundation, a Trailblazer Award at the Net Zero Conference. Courtesy Reuben Herzl

With the release of the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, policymakers, business leaders, designers, and everyday people are realizing how dire our situation has become. Temperatures will continue to rise, chaotic weather events such as droughts, floods, fires, and extinction will worsen. Even a best-case outcome looks increasingly grim. The scientific consensus is that we’ve locked ourselves into a warming planet, and the choices we make in the immediate future will only determine just how bad conditions will become.  

“The problem is tricky because it’s one you can’t see in your day-to-day life, but it’s a risk that continues to grow with each day we fail to find the collective will to make change happen,” says Drew Shula, an architect by training, who is the founder and CEO of sustainability consulting firm Verdical Group ,  which is focused on decarbonizing the built environment and host of the annual Net Zero Conference  

Shula started the conference eight years ago with the intention of bringing people together to catalyze a transformation away from fossil fuel energy sources to renewable energy. “We’re connecting radical thought leaders, activists, and visionaries, with boots-on-the-ground architects, designers, builders, and engineers. Collectively, we’re taking on one of the most entrenched and powerful industries in the world, the fossil fuel industry, and inspiring change toward a net zero future,” he explains.   

The 2021 Net Zero Conference (NZ21) is a climate change solutions hybrid virtual and in-person event September 13-16, 2021. Courtesy Verdical Group

The hybrid conference, which will take place over four days in Los Angeles and virtually, from September 13th through the 16th, will feature 140 speakers and is projected to attract more than 2,000 attendees. Going beyond carbon-reduction, the conference will also amplify conversations on water, waste, and transportation. “The common thread to everything at the Net Zero Conference is protecting our natural environment and inspiring collaboration for climate change solutions.” 

The biggest impediment to a net zero future is business as usual, and that’s important for architects, designers, and real estate industry professionals to consider, since around 40 percent of carbon emissions worldwide trace to the building sector, in which those professionals are key players. For architects and designers who want to act, but don’t know where to start, Verdical Group and the Net Zero Conference can be places to learn how to use sustainability tools such as lifecycle analysis and iterative energy modelling.   

The conference may also be a place to find positive reinforcement amid the doomsday forecasts. Coming up with workable solutions requires a reframing of catastrophes as opportunities to act, explains Shula. “While many fear the existential crisis that is climate change, others see enormous business opportunities. I’m optimistic about our ability to solve the problem and believe the world’s first trillionaire will come from the climate solution space.”

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