Green Jobs: the Housing Construction Industry

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Despite the still sinking economy, layoffs, businesses closing, and the rise in unemployment and food stamp applications, jobs in the green sector are growing.

What is a green job?

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP):

We define green jobs as work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development (R&D), administrative, and service activities that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality. Specifically, but not exclusively, this includes jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity; reduce energy, materials, and water consumption through high efficiency strategies; de-carbonize the economy; and minimize or altogether avoid generation of all forms of waste and pollution.

The housing industry fuels the economy. To create green jobs could pull us out of this slump and reduce our independence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels. According to the EPA, buildings consume about 1/3 of the electricity in the US, so energy efficient upgrades are a smart way to start saving money and energy. This will train workers and create jobs, careers and businesses. The green economy is the future!

Green jobs stimulus in U.S cities

The stimulus package helped fund energy efficient retrofits of commercial buildings, with the idea that energy savings would allow business owners to hire employees. Energy savings and job creation – win/win!

The Dept. of Labor recently awarded an $8M grant to Jobs for the Future for training in green building, auto technology, manufacturing and utilities. This will help Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington DC with green job creation and training in the construction industry.

In Detroit, hit hard by the recession, numerous foreclosed and abandoned homes will be renovated and upgraded with energy efficient features. Funds for DC will also go towards weatherization, solar installations and green roof maintenance, and will create jobs with several construction unions. Philadelphia’s solar industry will benefit.

Green jobs sector programs

Green For All is training young people in low-income communities in solar, weatherization, auto technology, construction, and mass transit to help get them out of poverty and be able to equally compete in the job market.

‘Green For All is a national organization working to build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.’

Green City Force is training urban youth to create a ‘green city’. In their first year, they put reflective coating on 500,000 square feet of city rooftops to reduce the need for cooling energy. They were also involved with New York’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) conducting energy audits.

The Green Jobs-Green New York Act was passed in 2010 to offer financing for energy efficient upgrades that will pay for themselves. A loan is acquired by the building owner and repaid through on-bill financing, an extra charge on the utility bill. One million homes and business will be able to be retrofitted through this program creating thousands of jobs.

Green building industry job creation strategies

Thousands more jobs could be created through:

  • The Better Building Initiative, which would improve energy efficiency of commercial buildings by 20% by 2020
  • A change to the current tax incentive for energy efficient retrofits of commercial buildings
  • A federal loan guarantee program for energy efficient upgrades
  • Grants from the Race to Green program for local and state governments to upgrade building codes, regulations and performance standards

Most colleges and universities now have degree programs in sustainability to train the future workforce for a green economy. Students want meaningful careers to reflect their eco-conscious lifestyles.

You can find higher education for these green construction careers:

  • interior design
  • architecture
  • space planning
  • landscape architecture
  • natural building
  • energy – solar, wind, geothermal
  • energy audits and weatherization

Looking for a job in the green sector?

Aside from energy efficient retrofits, green collar jobs in construction include solar installation, weatherization, water-wise landscaping, building green rooftops and building wind farms.

Here are a few sites I recommend if you are green job-hunting:

As we get back on our feet financially, the green job sector will blossom and thrive. It will be a slow process, but investing now in the future green economy is win/win, as we save money and natural resources, reduce emissions and put people to work.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.