Structural Change: Tom Morrison is Changing Attitudes Toward Climate Change

You may not think of conservation engineers as a radical group, but Tom Morrison is taking action to attract attention to issues that are important to all of us: how heritage conservation can play an important role in addressing the global climate crisis, and how to engage the next generation of conservation practitioners to lead that fight.

Morrison is the Principal of Heritage Standing Inc., a Fredericton, NB engineering firm specializing in heritage conservation. His firm’s work on historic sites across Atlantic Canada feeds his passion to contribute more widely to the field of conservation. He currently serves as the Secretary-General of ICOMOS’s Scientific Committee for Engineering (ISCARSAH), is an active member of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals and APT’s preservation engineering technical committee, and is an Associate Editor of Engineering History and Heritage.

This self-described introvert says some issues are important enough to push him out of his comfort zone. The climate emergency is definitely at the top of the list.

After hearing a radio story in early 2020 on how TEDx was planning a series of international and regional events focused on solutions to the climate crisis, Morrison leaped into action, using his connections in the conservation field to assemble volunteers willing to plan and execute made-in-Canada events as part of the series. The two events in October 2020 challenged viewers to recognize that conservation principles must be applied to the management of our entire built environment – not just heritage buildings, but all buildings.

Morrison brought similar energy to organizing with others the “Heritage Hack-a-thons” held at National Trust / CAHP conferences in Fredericton in 2018 and Winnipeg in 2019. Those highly successful events gave local high school students a crash course in conservation from national experts, then challenged them to design fresh new solutions for actual heritage buildings that they toured. The poster-session designs and conversations about them with their young creators were a hit with conference delegates.

What’s next? Morrison is working with CAHP to coordinate a series of learning events, each focused on a specific group of heritage practitioners – architects, engineers, planners – to better understand how they can contribute to addressing climate change through their work.