#GreenSkills a serious barrier

The RAE (Royal Academy of Engineering) have today published their report:

Heat: Degrees of Comfort, Options for heating home in a low carbon economy. 

There is no possibility that the UK can meet its 2050 target for CO2 emissions without a fundamental change to the way our homes are heated, according to a report published today (12 January) by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Even with the most modern gas boilers and state-of-the art insulation, we cannot continue to heat so many homes by natural gas and still achieve an 80% cut in emissions as laid down in the Climate Change Act 2008.

Plumbers unprepared for move to energy-efficient homes, report warns (from the Guardian 12/01/12)

In addition to the technical options and considerations, throughout the report there are a number of important and timely comments around the skills issue for installation, AND, for behavioural operation, as the following extracts show:

… skills shortages will be a serious barrier to decarbonising heating unless addressed effectively

… behavioural aspects are very important. Studies in the UK and overseas tend
to reveal a variation of typically 3:1 between the upper and lower tails of the
energy use (between the 5% and 95% cases in the distribution) in technically
similar dwellings occupied by people from demographically similar
backgrounds. To make radical changes, it will therefore be essential to engage the occupiers.

… the lack of inter-discplinary work:

(A Cautionary Tale Case study): The initial problem they faced was finding a single contractor who would take responsibility for the whole installation including the GSHP, ground coils, underloor heating and the integration of the new system with their existing heating and DHW installations. Eventually, despite having contacted the Low Carbon Partnership and the Energy Savings Trust, they had to place separate contracts with a heat pump installer, a groundwork contractor, a plumber and an electrician for different parts of the work.

The work went ahead and a 16kW heat pump, 150m of slinkies, a thermostore tank, solar collectors, two underfloor heating coils and room thermostats were installed.

When the system was operational the householder was shocked to find the electricity bill increased from £30 per month to £250. After 18 months of high electricity consumption and many visits by the different companies involved, it emerged that the heat pump had been wrongly connected so it was providing heat to the underfloor heating at the temperature required by the storage cylinder for DHW and, although the room thermostats were controlling the pumps on the underfloor heating manifold, they had not been interlocked with the heat pump which, in consequence, was running continuously at its maximum return temperature.

… often there was no single contractor responsible for the installation, which might involve a ground works contractor, a plumber, a heat pump installer and an electrician. As a result of there being no ‘design authority’ for the whole system, there was no single point of responsibility or any liability for the eventual performance of the installation

… there is clearly a need for many more engineers and technicians who understand the systems engineering that has to go into a heat pump installation and who can integrate the various energy systems in a customer’s house. The present provision in higher education and further education is well below what will be required. This could be a significant brake on the deployment of low-energy systems

“Our building performance studies show unmanageable complication is the enemy of good performance. So why are we making things more complicated in the name of sustainability?” – Bill Bordass,  The Usable Buildings Trust

and in conclusion:

17.4  Skills
The levels of applications engineering required to integrate a heat pump in a property along with local energy sources and other intelligent loads, such as chargers for electric cars, is much higher than is generally available in the trades that traditionally provide heating and related services to domestic consumers. A new type of energy use professional will be needed. Recruiting these will compete with the demands of new nuclear power, offshore wind and other energy industries that are already flagging-up staff shortages.

Skills shortage will potentially be a serious barrier to decarbonising heating unless addressed effectively.

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The Great Construction Green Reskilling

Last night I attended an interesting and informative “The future green skill needs of the construction industry” Round Table discussion, hosted by The Guardian.

The panelists Mark Farrar, CITB, Brian Berry, FMB, David Bownass, WSP and Gareth Jones Carbon Zero UK, were chaired by Jane Dudman from the Guardian.

A full report of the round table will appear in the Guardian on 16th Nov, but here are my thoughts on construction green skills future needs

Understandably the attention and focus was on trade green skills and the green deal which Mark Farrar from CITB referred to as a ‘targeted hot spot’ for the industry.

And yet the need for green skills in construction will permeate to all levels and roles and is far wider than the Green Deal although this may well be the catalyst, even a trojan horse.

Leaders and directors will need the skills to be able to act as role models, embedding green thinking across the organisational value chain,  to be able to look at all aspects of construction and  the organisation, including the organisations future direction through a sustainability lens.

Unless construction board rooms have a green agenda, commitment to addressing organisational skill needs could be transient. (See A Low Carbon Diet for Construction Boards)

Those involved with procurement, finance and quantity surveying will need skills to balance costs and value with sustainability, appropriate sourcing and social localism issues, and, be able to make informed decisions

Site managers, planners and supervisors require skills to balance sustainable construction, lean construction, reduced waste, reduced carbon, understand closed loop resources with the time old juggle of bringing the project in to quality cost and time. All this along side understanding increasingly complex constructions and green installations.

At trade green skills level the panelists agreed on the need for multi-skilled, multi competent persons and approaches, all needing a new approach to supervision and planning.

Getting it right first time, a systems thinking approach to quality along with closed loop resource concepts remain alien to the bulk of construction practice, training and education.

The re-skilling of the industry looks like a mammoth task when one considers the training implications, again not only of trades but of under graduates, management courses and CPD from the institutions

The environment skills map drawn up by IEMA represents a useful approach to environmental management skills that in the main can be read across to construction management.

But green skills are not the only future skills required, as we move to BIM, IPM, Collaborative and Lean construction … We need to ask why has our training investment, training organisations, education systems and institutes not delivered the needed skills on the correct scale.

Sustainability has been on the agenda for at least a generation since Brundtlands Sustainability Development definition in 1987.

Its nothing new.

Back in 2007  Rob Hopkins in the Transition Handbook forecast –

In 2011, the Government initiated the concept of the Great Reskilling in the training of construction industry workers.

Are we nearly there?

Great Green Deal Re-Skilling?

Following on from the depressing news that Construction lacks green, key business and foresight skills, in particular 43% of employers dont feel they understand the implications of green issues, or ability to identify the training needs, are we facing a green deal barrier?

Need for New Skills

We read in the Low Carbon Plan from the Government, (“much re-skilling of the construction industry to deliver the planned targets of greenhouse gas reduction by at least 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050″),  from the IGT Report of the need for green skills, we read that PAS 2030 and Green Deal codes of conduct will access sustainability skills, training and development. The FMB Cut the Carbon programme focuses on the need for new skills.

Will it turn out OK?

Rob Hopkins in his Transition Handbook, (see my blog back in 2008 time for built environment transition?) in a futures scenario talked about the Great Construction Reskilling, the NEF paper, How it all turned out ok celebrates how we recovered our lack of traditional skills, succeeded in addressing the localism issue and turned energy ineffective buildings into models of zero carbon. (again my blog: How it all turned out OK in 2050)

Who is defining …

But do we have an understanding of what green skills mean? Is it just an understanding of good sustainability awareness (eliminating waste, reducing carbon, buying local etc), Is it technical, natural materials (see the Transition Culture archive for reskilling) or is it something more deeper, profound.

Green Re-skilling starts at the board level…

Do we imply the reskilling is just for operatives, or wider to include supervisors, managers and (in my view essential) board directors and senior managers? Maybe this isn’t a training issue to be lodged with the HR team but one of crucial CSR strategy for organisation? (see A Low Carbon Diet For Construction Boards)

A question then …

What are construction boards, contractors, installers, training organisations, industry bodies doing, plan to do, or indeed have done to understand and address sustainability skills.