By Esther Shmagin
Volunteer with MN350's Green New Deal Narrative Team

Building energy leaks are one of the greatest sources of fossil fuel consumption in the cold Midwest, and sealing and heating upgrades are one of the most in-demand services on residential and commercial buildings. These upgrades, room by room and building by building, are one of the most promising opportunities to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

A number of People’s Climate & Equity Plan advocates are experts in their respective fields on creating green, energy-efficient buildings using union labor, and they spoke with MN350 about why the need is so great.

Elizabeth Turner is an architect as well as a Certified Passive Building Consultant at her small business, Precipitate. Through her work, Elizabeth focuses on matching the energy efficiency of affordable housing projects with the standards for “passive house” energy efficiency to reduce the burden of electricity and heat costs and the impact of climate change on people with low incomes. In her story, Elizabeth affirms how important it is to be able to access fundings from grants early, before buildings are designed. If funding is unpredictable, it’s often too late to retrofit a building for ideal energy efficiency. Though energy efficiency upgrades benefit the health and safety of the community, often homeowners and developers are responsible for funding energy upgrades when local funding is absent, and they’re forced to navigate the rebate and subsidy environment to get reimbursed for their contribution to climate justice.

Read more about Elizabeth.


Tony Poole is the Business Manager at Steamfitters/Pipefitters Local 455. Pipefitters have a long history of work in the fossil fuel industry, so a just transition to a carbon-free future weighs heavily on their minds. According to Tony, the union is looking into alternatives like geothermal and hydronic heating and cooling systems because polluting power plants are closing down. This has made longer-term work harder to find. What’s more, current air conditioning solutions aren’t meeting the efficiency goals of our political leaders. Tony says that the amount of work available in the region to tap into “district energy” is more than ever imagined before in the days of coal and gas.

Read more about the vision of Steamfitters/Pipefitters Local 455.


Brian Larson is the founder of Air Seal Tech, an insulation and air seal company in Bloomington. Brian was inspired to start his company when he was sitting in a seminar and heard that it could take more than 66 years to complete all of the air sealing work currently needed in the United States. He estimates that in the Twin Cities metro area alone, about 80% of the homes are not up to current standards and need air sealing and insulation work. But Brian almost never talks in terms of energy efficiency with his clients – they’re more interested in having healthier air, feeling more comfortable in their homes, and saving money. He’s looking to train employees with little prior experience in insulation to introduce more struggling individuals into a well-paying career track, lower community unemployment, and create a bigger team impact for climate justice.

Read Brian’s story here.