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5 growing careers in the green job market

September 7, 2017
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On the road to Greenbuild 2017 in Boston, we take stock of the contributions that green buildings and associated sustainable markets have had in driving economic growth—and look toward the careers that will continue to drive marketplace transformation.

Green construction is projected to account for more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs and to generate $190.3 billion in labor earnings between 2015 and 2018, according to the 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study.

We know that architects, building engineers and contractors play a huge role in ensuring sustainability, but there are many other roles that make a difference in achieving environmental, economic and social progress. Here are some of the top green jobs that are expected to grow in the next seven years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Wind turbine service technician

Projected growth: 108 percent

Wind turbine technicians work on all aspects of the wind system, including turbines, controls and ancillary support equipment. They are expected to climb towers and platforms at least 85 feet high. They install, inspect, diagnose and repair turbines and components and review related manuals, blueprints and schematic diagrams to maintain a highly automated system.

Example job titles: wind energy mechanic, wind turbine mechanic, wind turbine technician.

2. Solar photovoltaic installer

Projected growth: 24.3 percent

Solar photovoltaic installers assemble, install or maintain solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on roofs or other structures in compliance with site assessment and schematics. Their responsibilities include assessing the environment and mitigating any hazards associated with installation, along with sealing the systems against weather. This often includes electrical work and testing.

Example job titles: solar technician, PV testing technician, solar energy technician, solar field service technician.

3. Environmental engineer

Projected growth: 12.4 percent

Environmental engineers are involved in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health and water and air pollution control. They also address global issues, such as unsafe drinking water, climate change and environmental sustainability.

Example job titles: air pollution control engineer, environmental remediation engineer, hazardous substances engineer, pollution control engineer, soil engineer, waste management engineer, water treatment plant engineer.

4. Construction and building inspector

Projected growth: 8 percent 

Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations and contract specifications. Inspectors generally perform an initial check during the first phase of construction, follow-up inspections throughout and a final comprehensive inspection.

Example job titles: architectural inspector, bridge inspector, building code inspector, construction inspector, electrical inspector, plumbing inspector, plumbing inspector, residential building inspector.

5. Building custodian

Projected growth: 5.8 percent

Custodians work to make sure that buildings are neat, clean and safe. They also may oversee building security, window cleaning and minor building maintenance and repairs. Custodians implement a building’s green cleaning program, ensuring that safe and environmentally friendly cleaning products and procedures are used and that waste is disposed of properly.

Example job titles: cleaning and maintenance worker, custodial worker, floor cleaner, janitor, office cleaner, school custodian, window washer.

Learning at Greenbuild

To learn more about careers and sectors in the green building industry and for great networking opportunities, join us at Greenbuild 2017 in Boston, India and China. In Boston, don’t miss the career-related events below:

Course: Internships: Creating a Talent Pipeline for Green Industries

Thurs., November 9, 1–2 p.m.

This session will cover the topic of internships from the perspectives of interns, employers and a unique state-led initiative to support the clean energy industry through on-the-job training. Learn how to structure a successful internship program, discover the job prospects in sustainability and discuss lessons learned from both attendees and presenters.

Course: Staying Nimble in Your Sustainability Career

Thurs., November 9, 5–6 p.m.

Learn how to adapt to an ever-changing landscape in green building and a steady flow of new technologies, rating systems and opportunities. Top leaders in the industry share how they grow their technical expertise, build relationships and catalyze market transformation.

Register for Greenbuild Boston

Bucknell Becomes Second University to Earn PEER Certification

September 6, 2017
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Lewisburg, Pa.—(Sept. 6, 2017)—Bucknell University has become just the second university and fourth organization in the world to achieve PEER certification from GBCI. The Bucknell Cogeneration Plant supplies 90 percent of the electricity used on campus and has helped reduce the university’s carbon footprint by more than 40 percent from 1996 levels. It also has supplied 123 million kilowatt hours of electricity to the local utility, displacing electricity generated primarily from coal.

Read the full press release

Salt Lake City passes ordinance on benchmarking energy use (USGBC Utah)

September 6, 2017
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Salt Lake City has taken a huge step in making itself more green. On August 29, the City Council of Salt Lake City approved an ordinance that will require large commercial buildings to benchmark their energy performance. Efforts by USGBC Utah helped push this ordinance over the finish line.

Under this policy, nonresidential buildings over 25,000 square feet will be mandated to benchmark their energy consumption annually using the U.S. EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager, which will in turn be shared with the city. Lower-performing buildings will be required to evaluate the need for energy “tune-ups” every five years, to optimize their systems’ performance.

Salt Lake City will be in good company, as it will be the 25th city in the U.S. to adopt a benchmarking requirement. In fact, cities with benchmarking policies in place have seen a 1.6–14 percent reduction in building energy use over two- to four-year period.

Not only will Salt Lake City benefit from reduced energy consumption and operational expenses as a result of this new policy, but the city will see environmental improvements as well. By requiring benchmarking among large commercial buildings, Salt Lake City will see improved air quality, which is especially notable in a metro area ranked by the American Lung Association as having the sixth worst short-term particle air pollution among 186 monitored metro areas.

At the end of 2016, USGBC and GBCI officially launched Arc, a digital platform that enables any project to benchmark against itself and similar projects. Buildings, communities and entire cities can use Arc to benchmark and work toward LEED certification.

See more recent USGBC Utah successes

Smart Cities Week D.C. is just around the corner

September 6, 2017
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Smart Cities Week delivers solutions for the urgent global need for more livable, workable and sustainable cities. Come to Washington, D.C., from October 3 to 5, to join visionary government leaders and the world’s foremost smart cities practitioners for a unique, immersive event that ultimately answers the question "How can smart infrastructure solve a city’s toughest challenges?"

Hosted by the Smart Cities Council, this annual conference and exhibition promises to be part inspirational and part educational. Attendees will hear from the sector’s leading experts, exchange ideas with peers from around the world and see the next wave of smart technologies first-hand.

Washington, D.C., is the first LEED for Cities Platinum city in the world. LEED for Cities was launched in 2016 and enables cities to measure and communicate performance, focusing on outcomes from ongoing sustainability efforts across an array of metrics, including energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience (which includes education, prosperity, equity, health and safety).

There is no better place to gather with experts in smart infrastructure development and implementation this fall than Smart Cities Week in Washington, D.C.

View the program.

See the exhibitors.

Learn more and register

LEED and leadership: Building a greener future in China

September 5, 2017
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China’s commitment to green building, stated explicitly in President Xi Jingping’s 13th Five Year Plan (FYP), is significant. The government of China sees clearly the importance of building sustainably. As such, the nation has rapidly moved to the forefront of sustainable development.

With the backing and support of visionary companies, Chinese business leadership is also committing to greening every aspect of its ongoing developments—from commercial offices and industrial centers to high-rise residential communities to the retail, recreation and transportation structures that support them.

USGBC is delighted that LEED has played a significant role in helping China’s leaders realize important benchmarks in green building, and we are helping China achieve key objectives in its ambitious 13th FYP. Through hard work, sound investment and dedication to the sustainability of our planet, China has realized some tremendous milestones using LEED.

Now, as we move closer to the October 17 opening of the inaugural Greenbuild China, we spotlight 10 of those breakthrough events for you:

  1. April 2013: Shanghai EXPO UBPA Development becomes the first LEED Platinum project certified under Neighborhood Development in greater China.
  2. September 2013: Haworth Showroom in the LEED Platinum Parkview Green building in Beijing becomes the world’s first LEED v4 project.
  3. January 2014: The first LEED home in China is announced.
  4. August 2015: Nike’s Logistics Center becomes the first LEED Platinum warehouse in China.
  5. December 2015: The world’s second largest building, Shanghai Tower, achieves LEED Platinum certification.
  6. May 2016: The Glumac Shanghai Office T1 becomes the first LEED Platinum building certified under LEED v4 not just in China, but also in East Asia.
  7. March 2017: China certifies its 1,000th building using LEED.
  8. March 2017: China is named the largest market for LEED outside the United States.
  9. April 2017: Parkview Green is the first project in China to adopt Arc.
  10. June 2017: Johnson Controls’ Asia Pacific Headquarters achieves both LEED Platinum and EDGE certifications.

Though these are just 10 of China’s many LEED milestones, they represent important green building events for an ascendant country that is moving rapidly to address critical social and environmental challenges. If you would like to learn more about the people and projects that are helping China to sustainably meet its present and future development needs, please join us in Shanghai for Greenbuild China. On October 17 and 18, come see how China’s green building industry and the LEED rating system are aligning to build a more sustainable future for all.

Register for Greenbuild China

USGBC stands with Houston

September 1, 2017
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My thoughts and prayers are with those in Texas—especially our USGBC staff, volunteers, their families and our members.

As a community of staff, volunteers and members all across the globe, we are all impacted as an organization when something as devastating as Hurricane Harvey takes place. The images of the storm and those affected by it remind us all how vulnerable we are when a natural disaster of this magnitude strikes. Please keep those in the greater Houston region in your thoughts and prayers as they work to repair and reclaim their homes, offices, schools, places of worship, and other critical buildings.

Sadly, Hurricane Harvey once again reminds us our work on resilient cities is at a critical juncture and represents an unprecedented opportunity to scale our work, spread our mission, and provide replicable models of resiliency that can be used in the United States and across the globe.

The road to complete recovery in the greater Houston region will be long, and please know that I am committed to doing everything we can as an organization to support that.

We are all in!

Educational offerings for everyone at Greenbuild China

September 1, 2017
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China has been identified as one of the top 10 countries for LEED, and global green building construction is doubling every three years. The Top 10 Provinces and Municipalities for LEED in Mainland China were recently identified as areas that have made significant strides in sustainable building design, construction and transformation over the last year.

To gain all the knowledge you need, focused on the content most relevant to green building in China, join us for Greenbuild China, taking place October 17–18, 2017, with two pre-conference workshops taking place on October 16. The educational program promises to deliver forward-looking information to help drive the market.

Greenbuild is known as the space for green building industry leaders to convene and shape the future of sustainable buildings and cities. China is a leader in green building, and at the inaugural Greenbuild China, you have the chance be a part of the conversation at the ground level.

Top sessions at Greenbuild China

This year's program explores many topics, including those related to Smart Cities, materials and GRESB. After working with local experts in the field, the developers of the education program built three sessions with these topics in mind. The Greenbuild China program is split into three targeted tracks and offers something for everyone:

  • "Your Building, Your Health": Addresses human and environmental health in high-performance building design
  • "Success Through Sustainability": Explores application of green building concepts and its importance
  • "Built to Perform": Explores optimal building performance and design

View the full program.

Greenbuild China will also offer extensive education on USGBC’s newest version of LEED, LEED v4. Seven sessions have been granted LEED-specific CE credit, two sessions have been granted WELL-specific CE credit and an entire full-day workshop will be offered to give a deep dive into LEED v4.

Additionally, there is a half-day workshop on SITES, a green building certification system for sustainable land design and development. Attendees can earn up to six GBCI continuing education credit hours for attending the core program and an additional four or eight by attending one of the workshops.

Register for Greenbuild China

Learn how to meet sustainable development goals at Greenbuild India

September 1, 2017
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India has been identified as one of the top 10 countries for LEED, and global green building construction is doubling every three years. Furthermore, India is one of 193 countries to adopt the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and is pursuing these goals aggressively.

Now is the time to learn about innovative green building strategies, products and services, and the program for Greenbuild India will deliver this forward-looking information to help drive the market.

Top sessions at Greenbuild India

Because India has one of the fastest-growing economies, it is challenged with acting responsibly while providing employment to its population. "Bridging the Gap: Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities" addresses this crossroad in the sustainability movement. In addition, pooling land for affordable housing is a major challenge. Attendees will learn about green affordable housing from the perspectives of stakeholders, sustainability advisors, tenants and the public. This topic directly correlates with the “Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme," announced by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, which envisions housing for all by the year 2022.

Globally, there is a serious challenge in accessing clean water for all. 844 million people do not have clean water within a reasonable walking distance. "Water Security, a Necessity" will share water management initiatives at city scale in order to shift those management strategies at the project scale.

Lastly, many systems that are currently used in India cannot handle the volumes of waste generated by an increasing urban population. "Untapped Wealth: Waste as a Resource" will teach waste diversion tactics, best practices for project management and how these practices can lead to job opportunities in rural areas. In recent years, Shri Narenda Modi launched Swachh Bharat Mission in India, a campaign that aims to achieve the vision of a clean India by October 2019.

View the full program.

Discounted early bird registration pricing is in effect until September 8, so register for Greenbuild India today.

Register for Greenbuild India

Building sustainable communities through social equity (USGBC Georgia)

August 31, 2017
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An illuminating panel of three perspectives on social equity, moderated by Belinda Morrow, followed a building tour of the recently renovated, LEED Gold Auburn Avenue Research Library. The event was hosted by USGBC Georgia in partnership with NOMA Atlanta.

First, Jason Buch, former Technical Manager of the Green Building Council of South Africa, took us on a journey to South Africa to explore how the Green Star rating system is piloting a new credit category devoted to seven socioeconomic imperatives. It was a fascinating contrast to how we treat community stakeholders in the U.S. For example, labor-intensive practices are encouraged to bolster employment creation. Rather than one person operating a piece of heavy equipment, 15 men will dig a hole with shovels.

In addition, green buildings are encouraged to provide full medical screening for all project and construction employees, thus creating greater access to high-quality health and safety. This credit seems especially relevant to a developing country. It may not be repeatable in the U.S., but it is a great jumping-off point to asking, "What are the health and safety needs of our construction workers?"

Next, Alissa Kingsley, an architect with Lord Aeck Sargent, presented information about the hotly anticipated Georgia Tech Living Building Challenge project. Two unique features are a custom app for user feedback and a makerspace that will be open to the community. These design elements speak to both the technology-focused student users and to the sophisticated public engagement platform.

Obviously, the stakeholder community of Midtown Atlanta has vastly different needs from the typical building user in South Africa. The refreshing angle I saw for us here in the U.S. is a celebration of transparency. Rather than hiding all the progress of building technology behind the walls of the ivory towers, the building’s living story will engage public and private users in new and meaningful ways. Kingsle3y also announced that Lord Aeck Sargent is demonstrating transparency with how they treat their employees by earning the JUST social justice label.

Finally, Djuan Coleon, executive director at PURE (Project Urban Renewable Energy), highlighted some statistics related to "energy poverty." That term, a new one for me, defines households spending more than 10 percent of their income on energy bills. Most of us feel the strain of energy costs in a long, hot summer. But could you imagine spending as much as 53 percent of your income on energy? It was alarming to learn that most of the poverty-line households in Alabama are in that exact scenario.

Coleon proposes solar partnerships as one solution centered at the intersection of faith and social responsibility. By making renewable energy accessible to those most in need, PURE is tackling energy poverty head-on within low-income communities in Brunswick, Georgia.

To wrap up the big idea of the event, we were left with a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.” It’s a stark reminder to all of us to open our hearts a little wider and keep asking the questions that drive innovation in sustainability.

Explore upcoming USGBC Georgia events

Retrofitting schools for zero net energy (USGBC Northern California)

August 31, 2017
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In this series, speakers from USGBC Northern California’s GreenerBuilder conference, held July 13, 2017, at the Zero Net Energy Center in San Leandro, share insights from their sessions. Interested in supporting GreenerBuilder 2018 as an event sponsor or exhibitor? Please contact Brenden McEneaney.

Can schools lead the way to meeting California climate goals, doubling energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030? Can schools even go zero net energy (ZNE) today? Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and other investor-owned utilities have launched ZNE schools pilot programs from 2015 to 2018 to demonstrate that it is not only feasible, but also practical and economical to retrofit schools to ZNE throughout California.

As noted by Peter Turnbull, PG&E has 12–14 pilot ZNE school retrofits under way, including one at San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), and is partnering with sustainable engineering experts such as Point Energy Innovations to develop deeply efficient, cost-effective and highly replicable pathways to ZNE.

Retrofits will typically reduce energy use 30–40 percent, achieving Energy Use Intensities (EUIs) under 20 kBtu per square foot per year. PG&E is advancing this knowledge through public training and outreach, and considering the program through bulk purchase opportunities for equipment such as tubular skylights, heat pumps and LED lamps.

This “straight-to-ZNE” strategy may be more critical than previously thought, as SFUSD’s Nik Kaestner pointed out by showing the dangers of using natural gas as a transition fuel.

Kaestner explained that schools are well suited to be ZNE leaders, with access to public funding, long-term benefit from energy cost savings due to owner-occupied buildings, good potential for renewables, and serving as beacons for learning about and demonstrating environmental stewardship.

With its own carbon reduction plan in place, SFUSD is using Prop 39 funding to slash energy use in existing buildings through such measures as LED lighting, better windows and insulation, heat pump domestic hot water systems and HVAC and controls retrofits. Importantly, SFUSD has committed to no new gas boilers, and is designing all new buildings to be ZNE immediately.

Alexis Karolides of Point Energy Innovations pointed out that the most important retrofit measures are those that enhance health and comfort, in addition to energy efficiency. Some of the measures enacted commonly across many schools involve reinstating health and comfort features originally designed but decommissioned, such as daylighting features. Reinstating the view glass daylighting and augmenting it with tubular skylights can enable lights-off learning and provide more productive environments connected to nature.

Another retrofit that provides health benefits is replacing noisy, inefficient heat pumps (commonly found in California’s many, formerly mandated, portable classrooms) with quiet, efficient new versions. Many teachers would leave the old, noisy units off so students could hear them teach, inadvertently causing discomfort and high CO2 levels in the classroom. New units provide both thermal comfort and the fresh air essential to optimal learning.

In summary, Nik Kaestner, Peter Turnbull and Alexis Karolides showed how ZNE school retrofit projects can uncover and correct dramatic inefficiency and discomfort issues, while leading the way toward meeting California’s climate goals and providing districts and taxpayers with significant lifecycle cost savings.


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