Construction, GPRO, Products & Materials

Green Construction on the Rise

November 2, 2011 | By Ellen Honigstock | Make a Comment »

Ellen is the Director of Construction Education at Urban Green Council, and runs GPRO: Green Professional Building Skills Training. GPRO is a series of courses and certificate exams that teach the people who build, renovate, and maintain buildings the principles of sustainability combined with trade-specific green construction knowledge.

Here at Urban Green Council we LOVE data!  At Greenbuild last month Harvey Bernstein, VP of Industry Insights and Alliances at McGraw-Hill Construction, released a new study on the Workforce and Green Jobs.

The upshot is that in construction, green jobs are growing at a faster rate than non-green jobs. Green training is considered valuable to contractors, trades and A/E professionals and is becoming more widespread throughout the industry.

How big is this industry anyway? Globally, construction in 2011 is projected to be a $7.2 trillion industry, representing 11% of global GDP. In 2020 this is expected to rise to $12 trillion (13.2% global GDP), mostly in emerging countries.  Projections for the next 9 years are for growth in single family homes and commercial construction but flat for institutional projects.  As we all know too well, construction and design jobs in the U.S. have been generally declining since 2008, but the good news is that green construction has been rising as a segment of the market.  This year, green jobs make up more than 1/3 of jobs in the A/E and contractor communities.

Is there a shortage of green-qualified construction workers? 69% of AEC firms expect work force shortages of qualified construction workers during the next decade.  The MH survey tried to determine the reasons why.  Major reasons cited are:

  • Lack of interest in the construction industry among high school students because its perceived as not being high-tech enough
  • Retirement of senior staff
  • People leaving the workforce during the downturn and concern that they won’t return
  • Licensed trades (MEPS) expect the worst shortages.  Contractors expect shortages in carpentry, millwork, electricians, concrete/cement workers, HVAC workers and boilermakers

What does green really mean?: The survey asked what “green” meant to each individual.  Top responses included: energy use reduction, reduction of use of natural resources, and installation of renewable energy (this response was higher for trades).

Is specialty knowledge valued? Formal training is prized by the trades and by decision makers.  80% of trades surveyed said that unions and associations were highly valued sources of training for trades.  Happily we seem to be moving towards higher levels of teamwork in the industry – the survey reported that General Contractors are looking to improve their collaboration skills and value employees who are proficient with technology and have good people management skills.  From the perspective of A/E firms, GC’s and subcontractors, certified employees help them win projects and increase competitiveness across the board.

What are the benefits of green training as seen by those in the industry?

  • More job opportunities: Training is key to getting and maintaining better jobs. 30% of green job workers said they needed major training when they started, and most reported that formal education and training programs will continue to be needed. 71% of hiring decision-makers believe that having green skills increases an individual’s competitiveness
  • Higher compensation:
    • 58% of the entire survey estimated a 4% higher salary for green skilled workers;
    • 38% of trade contractors said they valued green skills at 7% or higher salary;
    • 14% of AE firms said they valued green skills at a 10% or higher salary
  • More job security and opportunities for advancement. Trades (carpenters, HVAC/boilermakers, electricians, concrete/cement masons and plumbers) are expected to see the greatest growth in green jobs. The survey found 15% of trade jobs today are considered green jobs, and this is expected to increase to 25% in three years.
  • Outside sources of training are surpassing on-the-job training for green skills.  The number of people who responded that they can get training on the job was lower as compared to those who stated a need for outside sources of training as more specialization and technology takes effect – this response rate was similar for trades and AE professionals.

How many green jobs are out there? One oddity of this survey is how it defined “green jobs”:  Green construction or installation job in building construction involving installation of a uniquely green system or requiring different skills to meet green goals.  This definition does NOT include administrative or non-construction professions such as manufacturing or producing green products.   Hmm…and I thought I had a green job.

  • Of the design professionals surveyed:  there was a steep increase in those that stated that more than 50% of their projects are green.  The rate of increase is less steep for GC’s but still climbing.
  • Of the responses from the unemployed (mostly architects): 17% are seeking an exclusively green job, 60% are seeking a green job and 31% said they were not as interested in non-green jobs.

Photo credit: Linh Do

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