More construction workers needed to reach climate targets

Lack of construction workers

A lack of construction workers is threatening Ireland’s ability to hit climate targets, an Oireachtas committee was told last week. And new skills are needed for those who are retrofitting older buildings. The Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action is examining the National Retrofitting Plan.

Dean of Flexible and Work Based Learning at the Technology University of the Shannon, Seamus Hoyne, pushed for new ways of attracting workers to the sector, and to “change the messaging” used. He commented that construction work is now using cleaner systems with more digital components, and the “imaging” of recruitment needs to reflect this. He stated that “scaling up apprenticeships” is critical.

He highlighted the fact that many workers left the sector and country during the pandemic, which leaves Ireland competing with states across Europe. “There are now five fully registered one-stop shops” providing retrofitting, Mr Hoyne said.

Dr Cathy Daly, an Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservator with the University of Lincoln, warned that using modern retrofit materials risks damaging older buildings. She said that natural insulating materials work best, but there is confusion” over the relevant SEAI grants.

Having studied the relative benefits of demolition versus retrofitting, Dr Daly said, “The greenest building is the one that is already built”. But she cautioned that, “It may be years before we truly understand the impact of retrofit works being undertaken today”.

Dr Daly added that research in England had found that poor retrofitting work had rendered homes “uninhabitable and it’s very expensive to put right”.

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