Green construction represents both our greatest opportunity in terms of mitigating climate change but also, because of the dangers inherent to high-hazard construction work, our greatest threat in terms of risk to workers. What we do at the nexus of green construction and occupational safety and health will set the standard for all green jobs. This report collects the best available information to assess the coming tide of green construction jobs with the goal of looking for opportunities to elevate worker health and safety as a priority in the green building sector. This report examines the different and evolving definitions of green jobs, which are typically comprised of narrowly drawn environmental criteria and, sometimes, economic criteria promoting green jobs as "family-supporting" jobs. A new definition of green jobs is proposed that includes broad environmental and economic criteria but also incorporates criteria to protect worker and community health. A "green job" should: 1) contribute significantly to preserving or enhancing environmental quality; 2) be economically sustainable (e.g., the job should pay a living wage, include benefits, and provide avenues for career advancement); 3) promote the health and safety of workers; and 4) never compromise the health and safety of surrounding communities. Under this definition, some categories of construction jobs would not qualify as green. For example, because the primary purpose of highway construction is to enable driving, a major contributor to fossil fuel consumption, highway construction jobs would not qualify as green. Under this definition, a green building project might be comprised of both green jobs (such as solar panel installation) and non-green jobs (such as traditional concrete pouring), depending on the specific task at hand. This definition also forces us to explicitly balance any trade-offs that might occur between preserving environmental quality and protecting worker health. This report presents one way to classify and categorize green jobs (including construction and non-construction jobs). It also offers an example of how occupations can be classified within the green construction sector. Though data on green construction job growth is very limited, all studies agree that green building, particularly in the area of weatherization and retrofitting, will increase in coming years. Certain occupations -- including heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers; insulation workers; helpers, carpenters; helpers, electricians; pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters -- will experience significant growth. A brief summary of the drivers of green construction growth is also given. Adding the increased complexity of worker health to an already complex green jobs debate will be difficult, but this is the obligation we have to workers. Unless there is increased awareness among the public and among key decision-makers about the need to promote green construction safety, we will always be stymied in our efforts to implement the many changes needed in the construction industry. As the country slowly moves to embrace an environmental ethos, we have an opportunity to infuse that ethos with an accompanying respect and just treatment of the workers -- members of the current generation -- who are each doing their small part to protect the environment for future generations.
Construction; Construction-equipment; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Ecological-systems; Environmental-protection; Environmental-technology; Environmental-engineering; Environmental-factors; Work-environment; Work-operations; Work-practices; Worker-health; Safety-engineering; Safety-measures; Job-analysis
The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), 8484 Georgia Avenue, Suite 1000, Silver Spring, MD 20910