According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, green construction is the “practice of erecting buildings and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource efficient. Green buildings limit their environmental impact by conserving as much energy and water as possible, and are constructed of recycled or renewable materials in order to achieve maximum resource efficiency.” Green building jobs run the gamut from architecture and design to construction to supply of green building materials to maintenance and more.
The field of green building is booming, and is expected to grow exponentially in the future. A study by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Booz Allen Hamilton showed that the green construction supported more than 2.4 million jobs between 2000 and 2008, and that number was expected to more than triple by 2013.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect wage data specifically for green building careers, salaries in this field are often similar to salaries in other construction and building professions, ranging from $31,000 for construction laborers to $85,030 for construction managers. Some green building professionals may receive higher salaries due to the demand for specialists in green building. Over 3,000 jobs in green construction were listed on Indeed.com as of May 2014.
Green Architects and Designers
From building architects to civil and mechanical engineers, landscape architects and urban planners, professionals are needed to design green buildings, including their energy, waste and water systems, as well as the landscapes that surround them. Green architects earn an average of $77,210 annually.
Architects, engineers, and planners in the green building field typically have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a related field, like civil engineering. Many also have a master’s or other advanced degree, as well as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional (AP) credential. Developed and maintained by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices, and it offers both certification to building projects and credentials for green building professionals. There are several types of LEED AP credentials:
- LEED AP Building Design + Construction: Suits professionals with expertise in the design and construction phases of green buildings serving the commercial, residential, education and healthcare sectors.
- LEED AP Operations + Maintenance: Distinguishes professionals implementing sustainable practices, improving performance, heightening efficiency and reducing environmental impact in existing buildings through enhanced operations and maintenance.
- LEED AP Interior Design + Construction: Serves participants in the design, construction and improvement of commercial interiors and tenant spaces that offer a healthy, sustainable and productive work environment.
- LEED AP Neighborhood Development: Applies to individuals participating in the planning, design and development of walkable neighborhoods and communities.
- LEED AP Homes: Suited for those involved in the design and construction of healthy, durable homes that use fewer resources and produce less waste.
While LEED is the most common program of its kind, other green building certifications exist, including the Green Building Initiative.
ArchitectureMagazine.com looked at the sustainability-focused data presented in the ARCHITECTS’ 2013 ARCHITECT 50 ranking of architectural firms. They found that the top five firms for sustainability include Westlake Reed Leskosky, WRNS Studio, Architectural Resources Cambridge, Lake|Flato Architects and Leddy Maytum Stacy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs for all architects will increase by 17 percent between 2012 and 2022. As the cost of energy and building materials rises, and as concern for the environment (especially climate change) grows, green architects and designers will likely be in increasing demand as companies, towns and cities and institutions of higher education look to renovate or construct new buildings that use less energy and water, are made of sturdy, eco-friendly materials and are able to handle the impacts of climate change (like higher temperatures, more frequent extreme precipitation and stormwater runoff).
Green Construction Professionals
Green building construction jobs include laborers, managers and operating and equipment engineers. These professionals work onsite to turn green building designs into a reality.
Construction laborers typically earn about $29,160 per year, while construction managers can expect a salary of about $82,790. Although many construction professionals develop experience via trade programs, apprenticeships and training on the job, many (especially managers) also hold bachelor’s degrees in fields like construction management, business management or engineering. Many construction managers also get the LEED Green Associate credential or the National Center for Construction Education and Research’s Sustainable Construction Manager certification, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs for architects will grow by 15 percent between 2012 and 2022, and it follows that green construction professionals will also be in demand: After all, someone has to build what the green architects design! McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook reports that green building is expected to represent 55 percent of all commercial and institutional construction by 2016. According to this report, residential green construction is also on the rise: it’s expected that by 2016, green homes will comprise 29 to 38 percent of the market.
Energy auditors study residential and commercial buildings to find ways to reduce energy waste and keep costs low over time, from stopping heating and cooling leaks to installing more energy-efficient technology for heating, cooling, lighting and more. While bachelor’s degrees aren’t required for energy auditing jobs, a growing number of community and technical colleges offer courses and training in this field. In addition, certification programs are offered by the Building Performance Institute, the Residential Energy Services Network and the Association of Energy Engineers.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data specifically for energy auditors, it reports that the average annual salary for accountants and auditors is $63,550, while the average annual salary for compliance officers is $66,770.
The trend of using less energy, whether to cut costs or to prevent air pollution and climate change, isn’t going away anytime soon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes a strong job growth scenario for energy auditors: “As long as they are able to produce financial savings for their clients, energy auditors should find continued demand for their skills. As more home and building owners recognize the benefits of energy audits, the number of auditors will likely grow. The lack of education and training requirements to become an energy auditor provides an excellent opportunity for workers without a college degree.”
How can you become a green building professional? Learn about sustainable architecture and design careers.