Why green building is red hot

Peter Miller/creative commons

Skyrocketing demand is making green construction a significant contributor in the fast-growing green economy. Generating 38 percent of all green jobs, construction is pegged at No. 1 on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Green Jobs list, which ranks green jobs by industry sector.

Two new studies show a decidedly rosy outlook:

  • Expansive growth: Green construction spending is expected to grow 15.1 percent year-over-year, with annual spending reaching $224 billion in 2018, according to the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) new 2015 Green Building Economic Study. Already, green building is outpacing general construction, a trend expected to continue through 2018.
  • Soaring employment: Green construction directly will contribute 1.1 million jobs and $75.6 million in wages by 2018, according to the same report. And by 2020, the sector is expected to account for more than one-third of all construction jobs in the United States, according to an Environmental Entrepreneurs jobs report.
  • Economic stimuli to spare: In 2015, the median direct contribution of green building to state economies is forecast at $934 million. By 2018, those contributions could swell to $1.3 billion, according to USGBC's infographic

The power of the sustainable construction boom extends both ways: As we build better-performing buildings, we also see benefit in labor reports.

Three reasons green building is red hot

Organizations of all sizes are opting for green. Following are core motivators:

  1. Accessible technology: More advanced — and less expensive — solar technology has helped solar lead the way in green job growth, particularly in Texas, Nevada and California. The Environmental Entrepreneurs study credits 21 new solar installation projects for nearly 6,500 new job announcements.
  2. Supportive policy: President Barack Obama’s recently announced Clean Power Plan, which calls for reducing carbon pollution by 32 percent by 2030, means increasing renewable energy generation by 30 percent, and creating tens of thousands of clean energy jobs. Many of these will come from construction jobs contributing to building the clean power installations. According to Environmental Entrepreneurs, Colorado's renewable energy mandate has spurred massive wind farm development, with two new wind farms scheduled to power 99,000 homes. In Nevada, three new solar farms spread across vast acreage represent a key step forward in large-scale solar on public lands, with U.S. Department of the Interior approval.
  3. Popular appeal: The World Green Building Council's metastudy, sponsored by JLL, revealed that green building features can support employee health, well-being and productivity, providing an additional argument for investing in green construction.        

The opportunity in green building is massive because the value is massive — from individual businesses to the larger economy and the global environment. By 2018, the USGBC estimates LEED-certified buildings will save $1.2 billion in energy spending alone — and that’s in addition to all the jobs. Clearly, sustainability-focused construction projects are delivering on their green promises, and a lot more.