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5 Ways Unions are Building a Greener NYC

New York City’s construction unions are leading the charge to tackle global warming and build a more sustainable future.


One World Trade Center, built by union labor, is one of New York’s most iconic LEED certified buildings.

As Earth Day rolls around, New Yorkers can celebrate a greener city, courtesy of construction unions spearheading the construction of eco-friendly buildings. From sustainable materials, energy-efficient systems, green jobs training programs and more, New York’s construction unions are tackling global warming and building an environmentally conscious skyline. Here's the lowdown on five ways construction unions are turning the Big Apple green, one building at a time.


Green Building Certifications: The New Gold Standard

Union-backed construction projects are embracing green building certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Passive House. These prestigious badges set high standards for energy efficiency, water conservation, and eco-friendly materials. One shining example of a union-built, gold-certified LEED construction project is One World Trade Center— it’s just one of many. By championing these benchmarks, construction unions ensure NYC's new buildings don't just dazzle the eye, but are easy on the environment too.


Apprenticeship Programs: Green Training for Green Building

Unions know that the secret sauce to green construction lies in skilled and knowledgeable workers. That's why they're investing in apprenticeship programs that teach the latest sustainable building tricks of the trade. These programs create good-paying green jobs and empower union members to stay ahead of the game, ensuring they've got the chops to implement green construction in their projects and make NYC a shining example of eco-friendly urban living. By contrast, non-union contractors can’t claim to have a single apprenticeship program.

By championing green benchmarks, construction unions ensure NYC's new buildings don't just dazzle the eye, but are easy on the environment too.


A promotional image from the LIUNA training website. LIUNA, which states that it "employs and 'all-of-the-above' approach to meeting our pressing energy needs," trains union members in the latest green technologies and practices.

Energy-Efficient Retrofits: Giving Old Buildings a Green Makeover

With NYC's fair share of aging buildings, unions recognize the need to revamp existing structures for better energy efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Union workers lead the charge, masterfully upgrading insulation, heating, cooling, and lighting systems in countless buildings. The payoff? A more energy-efficient city that saves resources and cash in the long run.


Innovative Technologies and Materials: The Cutting Edge of Green

Construction unions are constantly scouting for groundbreaking technologies and materials to make their projects even more eco-friendly. From solar panels, to state-of-the-art insulation, to LED lighting and advanced lighting control systems, low-VOC paints and more. Instead of cutting corners on materials— like many non-union contractors are known to do— unions team up with architects, engineers, and manufacturers to bring the most advanced and innovative materials to NYC's skyline.


City, State, and Elected Officials celebrate the groundbreaking of a new Passive House senior residence in the Bronx, built with 100% union labor.

Green Construction Policies and Legislation: Lobbying for a Greener City

Unions know they can't go green solo, which is why they actively engage with local and state governments to push for eco-friendly construction policies and legislation. Powerful union coalitions like Climate Jobs New York are cutting through bureaucracy to push through ambitious green energy projects, all while creating family-supporting jobs. Without the organizing prowess of construction unions, the clean energy transition might remain a pipe dream. By advocating for measures like energy efficiency incentives, stricter building codes, and renewable energy requirements, unions are crafting a legal framework to support a greener New York City.


Construction unions are a driving force behind NYC's green transformation, tackling global warming while redefining our skyline with sustainable materials, energy-efficient systems, and green job training programs. They are, one building at a time. So, this Earth Day, you have one more reason to ask, “who built this building?”


Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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