Bachelor's degree programs in sustainable building design teach entry-level students the basics of green building through the efficient use of resources. Courses usually cover materials, energy efficiency, and structural design over four years of study.
Master's programs offer training in advanced topics, such as sustainability theory and aesthetics, which help students create functional and attractive designs that are also friendly to the environment. Many programs are offered on a part-time basis to accommodate working students, meaning programs may last three years instead of two.
Individuals with some prior training in construction or architecture can study green building through certificate programs, which usually can be completed in two years or less. Courses may include energy efficiency regulations, daylighting, retrofitting, and renewable energy systems.
Bachelor's Degree in Sustainable Building Design
Students in sustainable building design bachelor's degree programs learn how to promote efficient use of resources while ensuring the welfare of building occupants. Students learn the basics of designing from scratch as well as retrofitting a building to meet energy efficiency standards.
Students need a high school diploma with courses in physics, algebra, trigonometry, and computer science in order to be admitted to the undergraduate program level. Sustainable building design programs teach students to see a building as larger than the sum of its parts. Programs cover everything from structural design to sustainable materials, to environmentally sound structure modifications. Topics of study include:
- Computer aided design
- Energy efficient systems
- Wood structure design
Professional Certificate in Green Building Design
Students of certificate programs prepare for jobs in green construction by applying the principles of environment-friendly design and energy efficiency to the construction industry. One example of a green building technique is a rooftop garden, which absorbs heat, insulates against cold weather, and reduces air pollution. Admission into certificate programs requires an educational background in architecture, construction, engineering, or a related field.
Prospective green construction workers study water and energy conservation, natural ventilation, and environmentally healthy building materials. Core coursework includes:
- Energy efficiency laws
- Green retrofitting
- Renewable energy systems
- Sustainability economics
Master's Degree in Sustainable Design
Graduate students learn to retain aesthetics while trying to attain a zero net emission building. Techniques for harnessing environmental forces using solar panels and wind turbines are taught. Additionally, students learn to utilize new technology to redefine how people interact with home utilities. Some schools offer accelerated or part-time schedules for students with a background in building design or construction.
Applicants to sustainable design programs are subject to a portfolio review and are required to have earned a bachelor's degree before admission to the graduate level. Students with a degree in something other than architecture, design, or an engineering-related field are sometimes required to complete a preparation course prior to beginning the program.
Prospective green collar professionals in master's programs study architecture, healthy indoor environments, and technology. Students learn to put systems in place, like a website controlled thermostat, to help customers and clients decrease environmental impacts. Fields of study include:
- Building life-cycle analysis
- Building material mechanics
- Green building documentation
- Sustainability theory
A student's educational background prior to completing a certificate program may dictate the type of job for which he or she is qualified. According to a January 2009 study by the American Solar Energy Society, the jobs with the highest rate of employment within green construction in 2007 included:
- Agricultural Equipment Operators
- Biochemists and Biophysicists
- Bookkeeping and Accounting Clerks
- Business Operations Specialists
The master's degree program in sustainable design builds on architecture, design, and engineering backgrounds and thus graduates are able to work in higher level positions, such as architects and engineers in the green construction industry. Specific job titles include:
- Landscape architect
- Green building inspector
- Energy engineer
- Green design consultant
Continuing Education and Credentialing
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) offers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) voluntary professional credential (www.usgbc.org). Seven levels of LEED certification exist and cover everything from interior construction to neighborhood development. Depending on the level of credential earned, LEED certified professionals must earn either 15 or 30 continuing education credits every two years. Continuing education credits can be earned by participating in a LEED project, authoring papers or completing college courses.
Those with a bachelor's degree in sustainable building design may choose to go into the construction industry as managers or as manager trainees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2018 that construction managers made an average of $103,110 annually, with about one-fourth of the 278,460 employed in this field working in non-residential building construction. Job growth was expected to be faster than the average from 2018-2028 at about 10%.
To summarize, programs in green building discuss the different aspects of creating sustainable structures that improve the use of natural resources and reduce environmental strain. Students can choose from undergraduate to graduate level degrees, as well as certification programs for their training.