Retrofitting buildings and local economies: The link between efficiency and jobs

September 4, 2012

The idea of green buildings and energy efficiency for offices was something that corporate America initially struggled to see value in, but as cost-benefit analysis and research began to come out regarding the economic potential for retrofits, companies began to change their views.

This idea is one that has been championed by organizations across the country, and the Department of Energy even designated an innovation Hub for the green buildings sector to help increase the size and scope of the industry.

The Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) is located in Philadelphia, and its member institutions comprise some of the top organizations from the government, academia, energy development corporations and the private sector.

The mission of the EEB Hub is to establish the City of Philadelphia as a national leader in the green commercial real estate sector by demonstrating the value of retrofitting a building, the number of jobs that can be created by the industry and the lowered level of emissions that this transition can be responsible for.

According to an article by Anastasia Christman, a senior policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, local governments and economies can be supported by the green energy industry, as the process of retrofitting buildings can generate jobs and help companies cut long-term operating costs.

Because retrofitting projects need to be done locally – buildings cannot be moved overseas and outsourcing work is not a viable solution – there would be a significant number of jobs that would be created for each project.

Philadelphia is not the only city to push for more energy efficient buildings, as Los Angeles recently adopted more stringent rules regarding green construction.

According to the Huffington Post article, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance that specified how project labor agreements would "minimize the possibilities for labor misunderstandings, grievances, and conflicts thereby promoting project cost containment, and timely and economical project completion."

Chicago also made a move toward more efficient buildings in the past year, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed off on an $1.7 billion Infrastructure Trust, a sweeping plan that included financing for building improvements in the city, according to Midwest Energy News.

Retrofit Chicago, as the plan is being called, would provide $225 million to finance energy efficient upgrades in 100 municipal and private buildings in the city.