As anyone who has attempted to negotiate our current economy can easily attest, this is a very difficult, and often times confusing, time period to embark on a professional career.
Our economy is changing rapidly, and career paths that were available for generations are either disappearing, or are otherwise undergoing serious transformations based on the development of new technologies and the pressures ushered in by economic globalization.
There is one field, however, which is poised to enter a period of rapid expansion in the coming years, with long-term economic and political indicators all pointing toward explosive growth in the very near future. That field is the environmental sustainability field, and even more specifically, the LEED certified green building sector.
Here are 5 reasons why it's worth it for you to become a LEED professional
Taking into account the following trends, it’s easy to see why becoming a LEED professional is a long-term investment not only in yourself, but also in the health of our shared planet as well as your broader community.
1. The demand for LEED professionals is growing.
The labor market for LEED professionals has already begun to experience tremendous growth, and proof of this can be seen in USGBC's recent announcement of a study showing that demand for LEED professionals in the U.S. grew 46% during the 12 month period between March 2013 and February 2014. This period was not a particularly strong one for growth in professional jobs in the U.S., as the timeframe of the study coincides almost directly with the onset and conclusion of the U.S. Federal Government’s budgetary sequester. There are numerous factors that can help explain the growth of LEED jobs which, taken together, demonstrate that the recent rapid growth in demand for LEED professionals was not an anomaly but a predictor of good things to come.
2. The labor demand for LEED professionals is unlimited.
While estimates vary from country to country (and are additionally subject to change on an annual basis), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) produced a study in 2009 titled Buildings and Climate Change that attributed 30% of global annual green house gas emissions to the building sector, which the UNEP also concluded represents up to 40% of global energy usage. Considering the enormous scale of the global built environment, how much work it will take to transform it, and how much value this transformation could have in solving global issues such as climate change, it’s easy to see how the labor demand for LEED professionals is potentially unlimited. Seen in these terms, the only factor limiting the growth in LEED jobs is really the will to actually transform our global built environment.
3. LEED is the only global green building rating system, and as such, LEED professionals have skills that are in demand and are internationally marketable.
Viewing the green building market from this context, the fact that LEED is the only green building rating system that can claim to be truly global in its reach should help professionals grasp the limitless possibilities associated with a professional skill set in this area. There are currently over 62,000 LEED certified buildings in more than 150 countries and territories around the world, and there are another 2 million square feet of LEED space certified each day. These numbers go on to show that individuals who choose to become LEED professionals are positioning themselves to remain competitive in an increasingly globalized economy by acquiring skills that are in demand and internationally marketable.
4. LEED professionals will benefit from an increase in demand for sustainable products as the environmental sustainability movement experiences growth.
LEED professionals will also benefit from the same trends that will go on to serve all professionals engaged in activities tied to the broader environmental sustainability movement in the years and decades to come. Put simply, public pressure and the onset of the negative effects of climate change are going to lead to a natural increase in demand for sustainable products in the near future, and we are already seeing the beginning of this trend. There were over 400,000 people hailing from across the world that participated in last month’s People’s Climate March in New York City—a number that demonstrates a mere fraction of the growing consumer demand for environmentally conscious solutions to the greatest single challenge of our time.
Governments and corporations are already responding to this demand, with spending on renewable energy soaring to $175 billion in the first three quarters of 2014, economists are projecting that the renewable energy sector will enter a phase of exponential growth in the years to come. Much of this growth is being fueled by emerging economic powers such as China and India, which are constantly balancing the energy needs caused by their rapid economic development with the need to maintain environmental health and public health conditions in their countries. These nations are also the top markets outside of the U.S. for LEED, which is experiencing a huge surge in international interest in Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East.
5. The built environment will play an important role in combatting climate change, and LEED professionals are needed to support a reduction in building emissions and energy consumption.
Finally, many international climate watchers are cautiously optimistic that we are moving towards an achievable international framework for combatting climate change in the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Due to the outsized role which the built environment plays in emitting greenhouse gases and the importance of reducing its global carbon footprint, it is clear that there can be no regulatory solution to climate change that does not include dramatic reductions in building emissions and energy consumption.