You wouldn't know it from the general state of the economy (and skepticism about "green jobs"), but a new kind of urban policy is creating energy efficiency jobs in cities around the United States.

Under this type of policy, called building energy rating and disclosure, owners of large buildings track exactly how much energy their properties use. Armed with this information, they can make changes that reduce their utility bills and those of their tenants.

Five cities--New York City, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Seattle, and Austin, Texas--have recently adopted such policies. In New York City alone, the relevant law, Local Law 84, will soon impact 2.5 billion square feet of built space.

A new report by the nonprofit Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), Energy Disclosure & the New Frontier for American Jobs, profiles business leaders in these cities who are adding jobs and expanding their client rosters as a result of the new policies.

  • In New York City, FS Energy has grown from 3 to 10 employees, thanks to the city’s Local Law 84. Steven Winters Associates has added more than 10 members of staff. “Our business is growing a lot and we anticipate it will continue to grow. We already have more work to do than we have people for,” says Erica Brabon, senior consultant.
  • Sustaining Structures, a Seattle firm, expects to triple in size in coming years, and has already seen its client base grow by more than 30 percent since Seattle’s rating and disclosure law was passed.

Another new report by IMT and PERI (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) finds that, if there were a similar national policy, 23,000 net new jobs would be added in 2015 and 59,000 jobs in 2020. Energy costs for building owners and consumers would be reduced by more than $18 billion through 2020. The energy and greenhouse gas reduction would be equivalent to taking more than 3 million cars off the road each year.

For decades, nobody has known the difference between an energy-efficient building and an energy-inefficient building. Better information will produce more competition. Incentivized to make their buildings more efficient, owners will invest in training workers, retuning mechanical systems, and upgrading equipment.

That means more work improving American buildings--and more American jobs in years to come.