While it is uncertain exactly how the U.S. will address climate change, it is clear that any regulations aimed at reducing the nation’s carbon footprint will impact construction—for better and for worse. Potential winners are those companies that build powerplants, transmission lines and install energy-efficiency measures. Firms that are leaders in sustainable building and design are also well positioned to profit from carbon regulations. Potential losers, however, will not be as clear until legislation to regulate carbon is finalized. “There are ways that it can have benefits and drawbacks,” says Calli Schmidt, spokesperson for the National Association of Home Builders. “We’re waiting to see to what actually gets passed.”
There’s still little hard information on the impact of “cap-and-trade” approaches on construction. But a draft economic impact study recently completed by EcoNorthwest, Portland, Ore., shows that caps on carbon emissions could cost industry in that state alone $400 million and more than 1,600 jobs by 2020. New rules “are going to have some negative impact,” says Max Kirk, assistant director of the School of Architecture and Construction Management at Washington State University (WSU), Pullman.