There aren't many new jobs sprouting up in home building at present, but that's likely to change as the emerging "green economy" gains momentum worldwide.

Efforts to curb climate change are expected to seed millions of new green jobs around the globe in the coming decades, many of which will take root in the building sector, notes a report recently commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as part of its joint Green Jobs Initiative.

According to the report, "Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable Low-Carbon World," the global market for sustainable products and services is projected to double from $1.37 trillion to $2.74 trillion annually by the year 2020, with building and construction ranking among those sectors expected to have a significant environmental, economic, and employment impact. 

Efforts to make buildings more energy-efficient will create millions of new jobs, researchers surmised, and will also have a greening effect on the job responsibilities of an estimated 111 million people worldwide who already work in construction. High-performance projects and upgrades could generate up to 3.5 million additional green jobs in Europe and the United States alone, the report concluded.

These findings dovetail with new research by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which forecasts that American green jobs will grow fivefold over the next three decades, from 750,000 currently to more than 4.2 million by 2038.

That study, which establishes benchmarks for a new national Green Jobs Index, projects that green jobs could account for as much as 10 percent of employment growth in the United States through 2038, representing the fastest growing job segment in the nation's economy. Advances in renewable electricity production are expected to spark 1.23 million new jobs over the next 30 years, while alternative transportation is expected to fuel 1.5 million jobs. Commercial and residential building retrofits will result in roughly 81,000 new jobs in building and construction, researchers predict.

Meanwhile, the market for green homes continues to grow, in spite of the recession.  In a recent survey conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction in partnership with the NAHB, more than a fifth of builders (21 percent) said they’d be building 90 percent of their projects green by next year. Sixty percent of respondents indicated a belief that home buyers are willing to pay more for green homes, and 40 percent said building green makes it easier to market in a down economy.

Jenny Sullivan is senior editor, design, for BUILDER.