Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Green Job Series: Careers in Green Construction [First Installment]

As interest in protecting the environment grows, "green," or sustainable, buildings have become more commonplace. These buildings feature specialized designs and materials to limit their environmental impact. Creating these buildings requires skilled workers with knowledge of new design and construction techniques.

This installment of The Daily Leap's green job series describes some of the most common green building construction jobs with a focus on commercial and office sites.

Occupations in Building Construction

Erecting any building is a complex task, and green buildings are no different. Experienced construction workers without a lot of green knowledge might have to learn how to perform tasks in new or different ways. Also, when constructing green buildings, workers might find themselves using unusual design schematics or materials with which they are unfamiliar.

However, the biggest change for these workers is the adoption of onsite procedures designed to lessen the ecological impact of the construction. When building green, construction workers have to be conscious of how their work affects the surrounding environment.

Job Duties

When working on green buildings, construction managers are responsible for ensuring that onsite processes are environmentally friendly. This could mean setting up a recycling plan for unused construction materials or protecting environmentally sensitive areas of the site. Because construction managers also select the general contractors and trade contractors, they are responsible for choosing contractors who have knowledge of green building techniques.

The duties of construction laborers on a green building site are similar to their duties on other projects. However, they fulfill these duties in a more environmentally conscious fashion. For example, construction laborers must follow green onsite procedures, such as material recycling plans, decided upon by their managers.

Operating heavy construction equipment on a green job site requires special care. Construction equipment operators have to take precautions in order not to damage sensitive areas of the site. For example, construction equipment operators might have to work on sites that host a threatened animal’s habitat or an eroding watershed.

Education and Training

Most construction managers gain experience working on projects in other positions before they are selected to manage a project. Education is becoming important, and most project managers hold a bachelor's degree or higher in construction management, business management, or engineering. Advanced degrees, such as a master's degree in business administration (MBA), are becoming more common. Construction managers on green projects might have the LEED Green Associate credential or have taken the NCCER's Sustainable Construction Supervisor Training and Certification Program.

Although many construction laborer jobs have no specific education or training requirements, some construction laborers may receive formal technical and on-the-job training. High school classes in English, mathematics, physics, construction drawings, welding, and other career and technical education classes can be helpful preparation. Many construction laborers learn their skills on the job by assisting more experienced workers.

Construction equipment operators learn their skills through a variety of venues, including on-the-job training, equipment career schools, NCCER or ABC sponsors, apprenticeships, or, union instruction. Depending on the type of equipment, the operator may be required to be certified by an accredited party or by the manufacturer.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not currently have wage data specific to the green construction industry. However, BLS does have wage data for the nonresidential building construction industry group, which includes construction of commercial and office buildings. The table shows BLS data for selected occupations in this industry group for May 2010. The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.

Occupation Median annual wage
Construction managers $85,030
Construction laborers $31,000
Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators $46,160

For more detailed information on building occupations in the green construction industry, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Next week's green construction industry series installment: Occupations in Design.

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