Retrofitting report

Retrofitting the nation

Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are playing a vital role in addressing the shortage of skilled retrofitters in Ireland as the construction sector rises to the challenge of retrofitting a third of the housing stock by 2030.

Through a national network of 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs), construction workers have access to training and upskilling opportunities which will support the sector’s mission to eliminate the carbon footprint of building homes, and to deliver nearly zero energy buildings (NZEBs) with an A or A+ energy rating as standard.

ETBs have already established state-of-the-art retrofitting centres of excellence at Laois and Offaly ETB, Waterford and Wexford ETB, and Limerick and Clare ETB, with a further two NZEB training centres set to open in Dublin and in Mayo, Sligo, and Leitrim ETB.

Empowering the National Retrofit Scheme

There is no question that if the Government is to meet its ambitious target to achieve 500,000 home energy upgrades – to the required Building Energy Rating (BER) of B2 – then the scale of deep retrofitting will need to escalate quickly. Retrofitting training is an essential part of the requirements of Part L – Conservation of Fuel and Energy [2022] – Dwellings and Part F – Ventilation [2020] of the Building Regulations and is now increasingly important in the retrofitting and construction sector.

Michael O’Brien is Innovation and Development Manager at Waterford and Wexford ETB, an established NZEB training centre of excellence. O’Brien says that though ambitious, Ireland’s target to retrofit one third of the housing stock by 2030 is achievable if the workforce can be realised:

“This is an ambitious target, but we need to be ambitious in our national efforts to deliver Ireland’s Climate Action Plan of net-zero emissions by 2050. The wide-scale retrofitting of homes will play a key role in achieving that ambition, so it is vitally important that retrofitting is carried out by competent workers who have been properly trained.

“In cooperation with our colleagues in SOLAS, the ETB network across Ireland is taking action to upskill learners in a wide range of green skills, and we are best placed to provide this vital retrofit skills training through the designated centres of excellence which Minister Simon Harris TD has established under the Department of Further and Higher Education’s efforts to support Ireland’s Climate Action Plan.”

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) envisage that 375,000 houses (76 per cent of the total 500,000 target homes) will be retrofitted over the five-year period between 2026 and 2030.

To achieve this level of activity, it will be necessary to increase the average number of houses retrofitted to B2 BER standard to 75,000 annually for the five-year period. This will require a similar escalation of upskilling among construction workers.

Alan O’Gorman, Director of Further Education and Training, Waterford and Wexford ETB, Michael O’Brien, Waterford and Wexford ETB Innovation and Development Manager, Fiona Maloney, ETBI Director of FET, and Jo Cahalin, ETBI FET Future Building Skills Manager at WWETB Retrofitting Training Centre in Waterford.

Empowering learners

Through dedicated training courses at NZEB centres of excellence, learners are provided with the knowledge and skills to deliver efficient high-quality NZEB buildings. This upskilling will meet the construction industry’s ambitions to achieve air-tight buildings. All courses provided through the ETB network are City and Guilds quality assured with a certificate and a digital badge issued to participants on completion. Learners can also apply for funding through Skills to Advance, a SOLAS initiative in partnership with ETBs and supported by government.

“In cooperation with our colleagues in SOLAS, the ETB network across Ireland is taking action to upskill learners in a wide range of green skills, and we are best placed to provide this vital retrofit skills training through the designated centres of excellence.” 

Michael O’Brien, Innovation and Development Manager, Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board 

Peter Egan is Director of Further Education and Training at Mayo, Sligo, and Leitrim ETB. Egan says that “by participating in ETB training programs and gaining hands-on experience through retrofitting projects, workers can improve their ability to identify and address the unique challenges that come with working on existing structures”.

“This can include upgrading building systems, such as insulation, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), electrical, and plumbing, as well as making structural changes to improve energy efficiency and overall performance.

“Furthermore, retrofitting requires professionals with a broad range of skills, such as project management, technical abilities, and knowledge of building regulations. Training can help workers to develop these skills and become more versatile and marketable in the industry.”

Curriculum content for all NZEB courses has been developed in liaison with leading government and industry partners such as the Construction Industry Federation, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, SEAI, union representatives, local authorities and third-level institutions.

Waterford and Wexford ETB deliver several targeted courses in this area – including the NZEB Fundamental Awareness Course and the NZEB Retrofit Course – which cover topics such as:

• building fabrics, including continuous insulation, thermal bridging, and air permeability;

• renewable energy, including photovoltaics and smart metering;

• thermal envelope and building physics; and

• heating, including space heat and domestic hot water solutions in retrofits.

Fiona Maloney, ETBI Director of Further Education and Training Support Services says:

“The training we are delivering through ETBs for those who wish to enter the construction industry, and for those already working in the sector who intend to upskill, is not only mission-critical to deliver on our national climate goals, but also presents a fantastic opportunity for workers to improve their skills and knowledge, leading to increased value in the jobs market. This professional development will lead to more effective and efficient retrofitting projects and will make sustainable practises a staple for all construction practices in Ireland.”



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