Image retrofit for the construction industry is required to attract workers

The construction industry needs to rebuild its image to attract key workers to the retrofit sector, politicians have been told.

Graduates see it as it did in the past — a labor-intensive, on-site outdoor job, the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee heard.

The reality was that much of the work was clean, office-based, and digitally driven, calling for designers, IT staff, and other highly skilled professionals.

Seamus Hoyne of the Sustainable Development Research Institute at the Technological University of the Shannon told the committee that labor shortages risk undermining the ambitious national retrofit plan before it even gets off the ground.

Recruiting overseas to attract and bring workers back is essential, Hoyne said. But he added that newcomers to the field would also need to be recruited – and that would require an overhaul of the industry’s image.

“We need to change the message to attract people to the construction sector, especially the sustainably built environment,” he said.

“We’re now moving into a place where there’s a huge amount of digital tools being used.

“We look at modular systems and a lot of work that is done in offices by very experienced designers, researchers, engineers and architects.

“But we are also switching to much cleaner systems on site. These images and messages have to be very clear to draw people in.”

Mr Hoyne said efforts to increase apprenticeships for roles such as plumbers and electricians also needed to be further expanded.

The Climate Change Committee has held a series of meetings on the renovation plan, which aims to upgrade 500,000 homes to at least a B2 energy efficiency rating by 2030.

Members heard that there are particular challenges in making historic properties and traditionally built homes energy efficient.

dr Cathy Daly, a conservation expert at the University of Lincoln, UK, said that knowing how to manage these properties is vital to climate change mitigation efforts, as an existing building captures its embodied carbon far more efficiently than a replacement new build.

However, she said standard retrofit techniques are often inappropriate and can damage properties without yielding results.

This is particularly important in Ireland, where 16 percent of all private homes were built before 1945, she said. Image retrofit for the construction industry is required to attract workers

Fry Electronics Team

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