Finding career success in green building and design

By Leah R. Singer

In today’s economy and culture of conservation and environmental awareness, green building and design is transforming the marketplace. Individuals and companies are looking for ways to reduce the water and energy consumption of buildings and leave less of a carbon footprint. In addition to social consciousness, federal and state governments are making these environmental considerations mandatory by including them in building code requirements. As such, green building and design is an industry that will only continue to grow. Individuals looking for careers in green building and design will find no shortage of jobs and opportunities to leave a lasting mark on the environment and architecture.

The Demands for Green Careers

iStock_000036996176LargeCorinne Lloyd-Moody, principal at L2 Architects, notes several reasons for the increasing demand in green architecture careers. Buildings are enormous consumers of energy and water and climate change and environmental awareness are playing a large part in increasing demand for buildings designed with a green focus. Sustainable building and development can also increase the financial return for owners operating with the “triple bottom line” in mind: economic benefit (profit), social benefit (people), and environment benefit (planet).

Federal and state mandates are influencing how buildings and construction projects are being designed, constructed, and operated, as well. California’s recently passed building code revisions that require all new residential and commercial construction to achieve zero net energy by 2020 and 2030, respectively. Similarly, new requirements by the federal and state governments call for all new federal buildings to achieve zero net energy by 2030 and all new state buildings to be built as zero net energy facilities after 2025. There is also increased local and regional awareness to manage storm water more effectively and reduce water usage. All these factors contribute to the move toward green building and design, and the abundance of careers within the field.

Individuals looking for careers in green building and design should consider employment as architects, engineers and project managers. Erik Ring, PE/LEED Fellow and principal/design director of MEP Engineering, LPA, Inc., notes that it’s important to keep in mind that “green work” is not necessarily a job type. Instead, it’s an aspect of architecture, engineering, and building design.

“Focus on developing careers in those areas [architecture and engineering] knowing you want to seek out a green focus,” said Ring. “Then find firms and internships that are committed to green building and design.”

Trends in Sustainable Building and Design

iStock_000003845364MediumMatthew Porreca, principal at BNIM Architects, has spent the last three decades working in sustainable building design. He believes what a building can do matters as much as what it looks like.

Those working in the field of green building and design will notice different trends as the field grows and technologies advance. Ring predicts solar will continue to boom over the next three years, especially in California. Ring and Porreca also noted an increasing trend toward repurposing buildings in order to scale sustainability.

“The greenest design you can do is take what’s there and repurpose it,” said Ring. Several designers and construction companies are now exploring how to transform current buildings into NetZero LEED buildings. This type of rebuilding is often a response to climate change and environmental tragedies. For example, a small town in Kansas was forced to rebuild most of its structures after being struck by a tornado that destroyed most of the city’s buildings. Instead of constructing replicas of what existed before, the companies used this as an opportunity to rebuild into LEED buildings.

There’s also a growing trend toward making buildings more “well” for its inhabitants. Wellness is being factored into the architectural design and construction of buildings. This includes creating healthier structures with better airflow and ventilation, and weaving landscape into the building aesthetics.

Find out what it takes to be a part of this growing industry shift. Explore UC San Diego Extension’s courses and programs in Environment and Sustainability.

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