In February's column, I said you can expect the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) to step up, providing education, training and credentialing programs for green contractors and their employees now that our association has become an official member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the developer of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. It feels good to be able to say, “I told you so.”

The first fruits of this partnership will be ripe for harvest and evident to all in October. Right now, NECA and USGBC are working out the final details for a workshop on how electrical contractors can become LEED Accredited Professionals in the New Construction category. It will be presented Oct. 4, 2008, before our national convention opens at NECA 2008 Chicago.

Our National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee also will present an eight-hour course on Business Development Opportunities in the Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Market there. And you can be sure the latest and best in green building technology will be on display at the NECA Show, and related technical workshops available to all industry participants will be held along with it.

However, I don’t want to give the impression that a one-day workshop or a one-week event is the be-all and end-all of NECA’s work in cultivating the green building market. It’s a subject addressed daily in the training NECA sponsors for our industry’s work force, a prevalent focus of the management education resources our association develops and a large part of the active research we support.

It’s also addressed in NECA’s government affairs efforts through such activities as lobbying for tax incentives to heighten demand for green construction and for regulations enabling electrical contractors to compete effectively in the green market. And now NECA is moving aggressively to develop specific green business opportunities for electrical contractors.

Why does our association devote so much time and energy to going green? Because we recognize it’s here to stay!

For anyone who thinks green building is just a passing fad, I assure you it has deep roots and flourishing growth. In fact, according to David Gissen, curator of architecture and design at the National Building Museum, the first major green building project dates to 1851 when London’s Crystal Palace was constructed with roof ventilators and underground air-cooling chambers to moderate indoor air temperature.

While some may quibble about that historical reference, there’s no denying the green building market’s future. The goal of a sustainable built environment is becoming easier to attain with each technological advancement in this area, and those practical innovations are coming to the marketplace at a fast and furious rate. Just as important, no longer can there be any denying green buildings are financially sound investments.

Numerous studies have made the business case for building green. Among the most recent are one by the New Buildings Institute (NBI), which was funded by USGBC, with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and another by CoStar Group.

The NBI study shows that new buildings certified under the LEED system perform 25–30 percent better than non-LEED-certified buildings in terms of energy use. CoStar found buildings that have earned the Energy Star label use almost 40 percent less energy than average buildings and emit 35 percent less carbon. (Energy Star is a prerequisite in LEED for Existing Buildings.)

What’s more, both studies also confirm that third-party-certified buildings outperform their conventional counterparts significantly in occupancy rates, sale price and rental rates as well as energy savings. Those are all excellent reasons for owners to invest in them and for electrical contractors to prepare themselves to reap the resulting benefits.