Global warming is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. To combat this self-created menace that cuts across numerous industries, innovative approaches have been developed over the last few decades. In the United States, the construction industry accounts for over 39% of greenhouse emission. This means that for significant progress to be made in combating global warming, a radically approach different from the conventional construction methodology must be implemented.
In the last decade, the concept of green buildings has been gaining grounds especially in pioneering cities like California. Green building design, also known as sustainable design, is the practice of constructing environmentally friendly buildings with the efficient use of resources such as energy, water, and materials. Green buildings are constructed to remain eco-friendly throughout its lifespan. Green building operations help to reduce operating costs of building while improving the overall quality of life.
Currently, the global market for green building material is about $220 billion and is projected to increase to $ $377 by 2022. This explosive growth projection means that new job opportunities will be created as a green building design displaces conventional building operations.
As one of the pioneers of green building designs, California has realized that the future lies in green buildings and is geared toward attaining this future as fast as possible.
However, the dilemma lies in the successful transitioning of conventional construction to green building operations. Questions like the following must be considered critically: How open are former construction workers in adopting green building operations? What extent of training is required by new construction workers to function effectively in green building operations? What steps are the private and government sectors taking in bridging the knowledge gaps among construction workers to meet up to the new par?
In this article, the way in which green buildings are transforming the construction job opportunities will be discussed extensively.
Under this section, the opportunities that green buildings present will be considered.
As a step in the positive direction, the government of California is the first to put in place a Green Building Code. The (LEED) green build rating system helps in categorizing buildings based on how green they are and now, numerous local governments in the state have now made adhering to green standards compulsory for new buildings. With this mandate, new jobs opportunities in the green sector will be created for the working populace of California.
As the to meet up to the high demand and stringent regulations associated with green building in California, existing professional like plumbers, carpenters and electricians need training on how to use
installers, refuse and recycle material collectors and Fuel cell tests technicians and will require a trained individual to use them.
According to Green Jobs Guidebook, about 41 job classifications were identified as related to green buildings. Some of which include; green building design, green building operation, Geothermal development, Solar installation, Wind power installation, and HVAC service technicians and installers.
Green building in California will require skills that depart from the conventional skills possessed by construction workers. To meet up to the demand, construction workers must be adequately trained to meet up to the requirements required by the green building industry. Achieving this is not as straightforward as it seems because of the reluctance of construction workers to try out new things.
Mark Smeaton, a project designer at an architectural design firm pointed out that trying new products or operation can be challenging. For example, the use of plastic lumbers isn’t always received with open arms by subcontractors. This is because they require a shift from conventional wood and require them to learn how to make use of this technology.
Overcoming this learning challenge can be difficult, however, failing to adapt will render their services obsolete in the near future. Luckily, the government and private organizations are actively involved in easing this learning curve by providing a variety of green training programs.
It is also misleading to think that new construction workers need only be trained in green building operations. This is not true for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, a highly specialized skill like solar panel installation streamlines a worker and reduces their prospect of job acquisition in the long run.
In addition, the underlying principles of electronic, carpentry, plumbing and so on remains the same. Failure to be equipped with the fundamentals of these fields will only result in half-baked green construction workers.
Some of the skills that will be required by green workers include;
Since green building design is based on efficiency, highly convoluted lighting systems will be in place to ensure energy efficiency. For example, buildings will be constructed in a way to harness the natural sunlight through solar tubes. This skill requires special training.
New plumbing materials will be built with greater sophistication to achieved increased efficiency. For example, thermostats and AC unit will be designed to be environmentally friendly. This will require greater details when mechanical engineers draw out their plan. Also, the new materials will require a slightly modified installation procedure. Therefore, plumbers must train to understand these new changes.
Green HVAC skill is most. This is because having knowledge of climate control, greenhouse gases will ensure that the installation of the HVAC system meets up to the building code.
The U.S Environment Protection Agency indicated that having well-orchestrated landscape design can boost the efficiency of buildings. Also, finding alternatives to chemical treatment of water can have a long-term positive effect on green buildings.
Green Building in California is a goal taken seriously by the California Public Utilities Commission. It has set a net-zero energy standard for new homes by 2020 and for commercial buildings by 2030. To meet up to this, several policies have been implemented and immense funding has been provided to green energy companies in California. Also, many professionals now take LEED test to become accredited in green building design.
In recent times, numerous organizations have created programs that will equip workers with the necessary skills required in the green construction industry. Some of them include
Over a hundred community college in California now offer various degrees related to the green industry. Some of them like Cerritos College and Los Angeles Pierce College even provide numerous green job apprentice programs such as green construction programs.
LATTC is driven to provide courses in green buildings to low income, disadvantaged people. This collaborative will help to provide effective education to these less privileged so that they can also benefit from the boom that is rising from the green building industry.
Their approach focuses on teaching the fundamental of a field before green applications are introduced. For example, basic carpentry would be taught before application of green materials to carpentry will be taught. Similarly, basic architecture as seen in major architectural design firm will be taught before how green technology can be implemented in buildings to make them LEED-certified will be taught.
LATTC also offers numerous apprenticeship courses and covers all courses relating to green construction.
Several labour unions also make green training programs available. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) provides green training within the electrical industry. Also, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters offers a 5-year apprenticeship program for green plumbing. Similarly, Green Plumbers offer a free 32-hour training course on green plumbing.
USGBC encourages construction workers to bring themselves to speed with green construction operations. This is because today’s innovation in green building will become the standard of the future. The LEED green Associate has created several green construction courses based on USGBC curriculum to help with this learning process both in person and in online classes. The good part is that no prior educational experience is required before you can enrol in the program and become LEED-certified upon completion of the course.
Other organizations that offer green construction programs include the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC).
Currently, the green construction industry is far from a replacement to traditional construction- it is at best a supplement and this will continue for a long time because the fundamentals of buildings will remain the same. This should give several architectural design firms in California a cause for celebration.
With the increase in demand for green building in California, green construction jobs will proliferate until they become the new industry standard. Also, green building design and operations will receive wider acceptance on a global scale, and while conventional jobs are being rendered obsolete, new jobs will be created. It is therefore important for current construction workers to equip themselves with green building operations.
As the world at large moves towards green buildings, energy requirement will be significantly reduced, greenhouse emissions will dwindle and the quality of living will be drastically improved. Green Building provides an escape route for us to successfully combat our current environmental-unfriendly construction operations.