Starting Your Green Building Career

Posted on Jun 15 2015 - 7:02am by Kimberley Laws


When Kermit the Frog laments that “it isn’t easy being green,” he is, obviously, not referring to the construction industry. The truth is that “being green”–having the qualifications and expertise necessary to create environmentally responsibly and sustainable structures–will give you a competitive edge in the carbon footprint-conscious construction realm. Yes, being green can have its advantages, no matter what the frog tells you.

How Can a Building be “Green?”

You may not have given it much thought, but buildings can, potentially, become huge consumers of natural resources–not just during their construction phase, but also for as long as they remain standing. By incorporating some green features into a building’s design; however, its carbon footprint and impact on the environment can be greatly reduced.

A building’s level of energy efficiency, the materials used in its fabrication, it’s location, its heating and ventilation systems, and its water consumption are all factors that contribute to a structure’s environmental impact. As a green builder, you can find ways to make each of these aspects greener.

How do I begin?

The first thing you need to do is re-frame the way you view the world. If you are new to the whole “green” movement, you will need to do some serious reading and become familiar with it. Next, you will have to ask yourself, “is the green movement something I believe in and value?” If not, it isn’t likely the right career path for you.

If, however, conservation and preservation excites you, you will need to embark on some formal training. Here are some options you may wish to investigate.

National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). This organization offers a multitude of green courses that lead to credentials that are recognized nationwide.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). You can become an ABC Certified Green Contractor once you comply with specific educational requirements and complete the application process.

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This non-profit organization offers a myriad of courses in green construction as well as LEED certification.

What about volunteer work?

Not only does volunteer work and community service look good on a resume, but it will also give you the chance to develop your skills and find out if a green career is right for you. Idealist, Volunteer Match, the US Department of State, and Planet Volunteer are all excellent resources for seeking out volunteer opportunities. You may even wish to start your own green initiative in your hometown.

What if I am already in the building trade?

If you are currently in the construction trade, you have a definite edge over someone who must start from scratch–providing you are willing to lose some old habits and adopt a new environmentally-friendly way of doing things.

You will want to begin selecting Green Professional Development Courses and upgrades. For instance, carpenters may want to learn OVE, optimum value engineering–a green method of framing a home. “3 PDH Online Courses that Support Green Building” lists other potential professional development options such as LEED for Existing Buildings: Recertification Guidance, LEED New Construction Application for Multi-building Campuses, and Energy Performance of LEED for New Construction Buildings.

Remember, green technologies change at a rapid pace, so you will be required to keep up with your training and ability to adapt to new products and discoveries.

What other research should I engage in?

If you truly want to get a realistic picture of what it is like to work in green construction, you should get out there and talk to actual green builders. Not only will they be able to tell you what their typical workday involves, but they are also in a position to tell you what local employers are looking for, what types of projects are coming up in your area, and answers any questions that you might have. Plus, they may prove to be valuable contacts when your job search begins.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook can provide you with a wealth of information on your future career’s job outlook, pay, work environment, educational requirements, duties, and more.

If you have a keen interest in construction and like the sound of “being green,” a green building career may be your ticket to a promising future. After all, what does a frog puppet know?

Do you currently work in green construction? What do you like most about your job?

About the Author

Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger, career counselor and High School English Teacher. You can follow her at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.