About Green Buildings and Energy Efficiency Industry

The green buildings and energy efficiency industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and around the world. Supplying power and space conditioning to buildings accounts for approximately 40% of all energy used in the United States. In the race to drive down energy use and emissions from buildings, the green buildings and energy efficiency industry deploys a wide range of building designs, construction and retrofitting techniques, and energy efficient technology and building systems to reduce energy consumption while attaining the same amount of useful output and building comfort. What is more, energy efficient and green building projects have proven to improve occupant health and safety, comfort, and building durability as well as lowering energy use and long-term operating costs. Green and energy efficient buildings provide critical solutions to energy demand response, occupant health, housing security and affordability, and environmental protection. Green buildings and energy efficiency also provide bottom-line benefits to businesses and homeowners.

Investing in efficient new construction and retrofitting our nation’s existing building stock to improve efficiency and performance is a key resource to ensure that we can reach carbon-neutral goals and supply residential and commercial buildings with clean, renewable energy. Utilities are heavily vested in the drive to improve efficiency in our national building stock, spending approximately $8.4 billion nationwide in 2019 on efficiency programs and saving 26.9 million MWh of electricity. Federally-funded energy efficiency programs such as the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) provide energy retrofitting services to income-eligible households. To date, that program has upgraded the energy performance of more than 7 million homes. In the United States, at least 2.38 million people work some or all of their time on energy efficient technologies and services, according to a 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report. They outnumber the 2.05 million who work to produce electricity from all fuel sources, including coal, oil, and gas. More than half of the energy efficiency jobs are currently in the field of construction. As of late 2020, one of five US construction jobs now deals with products proven to save energy. According to ACEEE, in 2021, efficiency now saves more energy each year than the nation uses from any other single energy resource. It also saves money, creates jobs, improves grid reliability, and by reducing harmful emissions, cleans the air and improves people’s health.

Pursuing careers in the green buildings and energy efficiency industry is opening up an array of exciting, well-paying jobs with long-term professional development opportunities and high levels of career satisfaction.

The Architecture, Engineering & Other Professional Services sector of the Green Buildings Career Map describes professional services that relate to green building and energy efficiency work. This sector encompasses work often performed by a professional in a consultant capacity on a green building project, for example: architects, engineers, building scientists, sustainability specialists, HERS raters and real estate professionals. There are a variety of job opportunities in this sector and they range from entry level jobs that may require a community college certificate, associates degree, or industry certification (for example, draftsperson, HERS rater or real estate professional) to advanced-level jobs that require education and experience beyond a college degree (for example, Building Scientist or Mechanical Engineer). Many of the jobs described in this sector can be performed as an individual consultant or as part of a larger company.

Because of the complexity and sophistication of advanced building systems today, many companies are seeking employees with some post-secondary education or specific training in some aspect of green building technology. People interested in this sector may need to take community college classes, industry certifications, or college degrees in architecture, engineering, or engineering technology.

Providing occupant comfort and safety is the core of the Building Operations and Facility Management sector of the Green Buildings Career Map. Buildings need maintenance; systems such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems (HVAC/R), electrical and plumbing systems, building enclosure, and outdoor spaces, including landscaping and parking lots, need to be maintained, repaired and replaced. Establishing processes for handling emergencies, working with equipment vendors, and setting up preventative maintenance schedules are also rolled into Building Operations and Facilities Management. Larger facilities like college, hospitals, and business campuses hire a team of building and facility managers, sometimes each having specialized roles.

Orchestrating building and facility management activities requires a range of abilities, from technical abilities to communication skills. Entry-level jobs involve learning about specific building technology, as well as managing and maintaining buildings and grounds systems. Advanced-level jobs involve deeper understanding of building systems and project management and may require degrees in engineering, engineering technology, years of HVAC/R service experience, or years of on-the-job experience. Increasingly, the understanding and use of technology to operate building mechanical systems and plan projects is part of a facility manager’s job.

Green building and energy efficiency careers in the Commercial & Institutional Construction and Retrofitting sector span a wide range of working environments, job tasks, skills, and competencies - from building trades expertise in installing energy efficient building assemblies, mechanical and electrical systems, and advanced building technologies to energy auditing, construction management, building code enforcement, and business enterprise management.

Jobs in this sector offer workers many different advancement routes within the sector and across to other sectors. Some entry-level positions are attainable with a high school diploma or equivalent, while other roles may require training and technology specific certification. Advanced roles often require college degrees and other professional certifications or licenses. Commercial and institutional building jobs expose workers to a wide variety of building types and mechanical systems and offer workers rewarding career and professional development opportunities. Many of the jobs in this sector are performed under the umbrella of larger companies serving commercial buildings and frequently include a range of salaried employee benefits and professional development.

The Residential & Multifamily Construction and Retrofitting sector in the green buildings and energy efficiency industry involve a range of occupations that specialize in energy efficiency, comfort, indoor air quality, health and safety, and durability of a diverse stock of residential buildings. Job opportunities in this sector vary widely, from installation work and energy analysis and modeling to program management, community outreach and client relationship management. An overarching feature of these jobs is that they take a whole-house, building science approach to home performance. Many entry-level jobs in this sector are attainable with a high school diploma or equivalent and are enhanced with targeted training and certification in skills that home performance companies seek.

Advancement in green building careers may be achieved through study, training, analysis, and field experience to earn certifications built around industry standards and technology. These certifications are the typical pathway for proving the knowledge and skills needed to address the broad range of issues that can impact home performance. Opportunities to build and sustain a customized career path in the industry of building performance are widespread.