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If you’re city folk, you’re familiar with the 40-storey corporate buildings and residential condos that cover your city skyline. And as a suburbanite, you’re used to seeing houses—and a lot of it.

With all the energy and materials needed to power and sustain these structures, the construction industry has implemented a new project: green buildings.

Engineers in construction are fusing their eco-values with their design, construction, and project strategies. Less energy and electricity consumption and the use of sustainable materials are just a few categories green buildings cover.

“There’s a whole category that deals with materials,” says Chris Higgins, LEED Canada for Homes program leader at the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC). “It deals with everything from designing a space to collections and recyclables once the building is operating. It also deals with construction waste management, materials reused, recycled content, using regional materials, and using certified wood.”

Certified green

If you go green, you might as well get certified. The CaGBC and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has created LEED building certifications nationwide in an effort to foster sustainability in the construction of today’s homes and offices.

Certifying residential homes and apartments, as well as commercial buildings, LEED is a detailed rating system with a staff of raters and inspectors who test a number of categories for both new and existing buildings in green construction. Some categories that are examined include sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

“LEED buildings are buildings that are, in the very least, 20–25 per cent more efficient than an average new construction building and have reduced water use,” says Higgins. Since 2005 with LEED Canada, 2-million tonnes of construction and demolition waste was recycled and water savings equaled to over 3.3-billion litres.

Aside from its rating system and certification, LEED has also created a language for people in the construction and engineering industries. “LEED Canada for Homes andLEED Commercial programs have helped to grow the green construction industry by creating a way for builders, developers, and owners to differentiate their buildings,” says Higgins. “As a result, there’s an increase in roles for engineers in different fields in green building.”

Career building

The roles for engineers in construction are endless. Some of those opportunities include electrical, civil, and structural engineers, with the biggest demand for mechanical engineers. “The largest role is a mechanical engineer especially in the commercial building,” says Higgins. “They have such a large impact on the building if they’re designed well, optimized, and commissioned.”

Outside of engineering, Higgins says there are also roles for “architects, owners, interior designers, and commissioning agents” in the green construction industry. Mechanical engineers can make a salary of $53,500–$97,500, with project managers making an average of $77,000.

For green construction hopefuls, Higgins encourages students to get their LEED Green Associate credential to gain a better understanding of LEED. “Green buildings are rapidly growing in the construction market,” he says, adding that through the certification, “they do a lot of the reading and studying online, so when they graduate they’ll have a base level of understanding of LEED and it can help them in their job search.” 

Photo: Mark Wragg/THINKSTOCK