Guest Blog: Building Green Offers Michigan Chance to Reap Economic Rewards

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Those of us who work in the sustainability and green building sectors have been saying it for years: When it comes to drivers of our economy, green construction is the world’s best kept secret.

But this emerging industry is finally starting to get the recognition it deserves — and that’s good news for Michigan’s workers, consumers, and the state’s economy. 

The 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study, prepared by Booz Allen Hamilton and recently released by the U.S. Green Building Council, found the green building sector is outpacing overall construction growth, and is poised for significant gains over the next three years. The USGBC is the organization behind LEED, the world’s largest and best-known green building program.

So why is green building experiencing such significant growth? Because more and more buyers are demanding LEED certified buildings — they’re healthier, less expensive to operate, and cost no more to construct than traditional buildings. Plus, your return on investment is huge — green houses, for example, tend to be appraised at 10-20 percent higher than non-green houses. 

Here in Michigan, green construction will generate more than 242,000 jobs from 2015-2018, providing labor earnings of over $13 billion. This represents an enormous impact of more than $20 billion to the national Gross Domestic Product. The study found that Michigan was one of five states with the highest projected increase in green construction’s direct contribution to GDP while comparing economic impact between 2011-2014 and 2015-2018. This is excellent news, as Michigan is exceptionally positioned to use our industrial know-how and our abundant natural resources to grow and excel in the green economy.

Green building also plays a significant role in helping Michigan’s state government run effectively. The study found that green construction will contribute more than $2 billion in tax revenues to the state coffers from 2015-2018, helping Michigan pay for necessary services.

It’s not just Michigan where green construction is thriving — in fact, competing states like Illinois and Ohio are outpacing us, generating good paying jobs that could otherwise be going to our workers. That’s why we hope to see more communities taking steps to facilitate sustainability for their residents. In Dearborn, for example, they are crafting a sustainability plan that seeks to advance energy efficiency and conservation across all sectors.

All across Michigan, we are making progress when it comes to healthy, efficient buildings. But as USGBC’s study shows, demand for green building will only continue to grow as our values shift to prioritize sustainable approaches to our lives. The faster we realize this, the more our state will be able to reap the economic rewards.

Dave Norwood is the sustainability coordinator the city of Dearborn and a member of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Regional Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

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