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New skills for the construction sector to achieve European energy targets

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Through its BUILD UP Skills initiative, the EU aims to equip the next generation of construction sector workers – from manual labourers to design professionals and senior management – with the skills and knowledge needed to ensure building and renovation projects meet stringent energy efficiency requirements. This new CORDIS Results Pack presents some of the showcase EU-funded projects that have designed and implemented impressive upskilling programmes to turn this ambition into a viable reality across Europe.

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The building sector offers a large untapped potential for cost effective energy savings. Nearly Zero-Energy Building (NZEB) standards become a mandatory requirement in Europe as from 2020. The most challenging aspects of reducing energy use in the building sector lies in increasing the rate, quality and effectiveness of building renovation since the current rate of renovation is only 1.2 % per year.

One important barrier that hampers the development of NZEBs and effective renovations is the lack of adequate construction skills. Improving the skills of middle- and senior-level building professionals, as well as the various trade professionals in the area of sustainable energy efficient construction is therefore of key importance.

Against this background, the EU launched in 2011 the BUILD UP Skills initiative. It aimed to increase the number of qualified trade professionals by developing national qualification platforms and roadmaps, and providing training in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy in buildings. The scope of the initiative has been expanded to other building professionals under Horizon 2020, with projects developing multi-country qualification and training schemes.

Upskilling towards energy efficiency and sustainable energy should be done throughout the entire value chain of the buildings sector (including designers, architects, engineers, building managers, technicians, installers and workers including apprentices).

All of these professions also need to be aware of new and upcoming challenges relating to Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings. These include new materials and products, the integration of renewable energy sources, new systems or processes, such as standardisation and common voluntary certification of buildings, and the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools.

Upgrading or setting up large-scale qualification and training schemes in these areas goes hand-in-hand with initiatives that increase the demand for skilled building professional, creating new job opportunities and boosting Europe's economic competitiveness.

This Results Pack focuses on five EU-funded projects based across Europe that have driven forward the BUILD UP Skills initiative. The BUStoB project has been working in the Netherlands to provide construction workers with the training they need to meet the challenges posed by new energy efficiency regulations. The Train-to-NZEB project has established world-class energy efficiency facilities and innovative teaching programmes at five central and eastern European countries. Meanwhile, the ingREeS project, based in Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic, addressed the skill and knowledge needs of middle and senior level construction professionals.

Finally, the PROF/TRAC and MEnS projects worked closely together to provide accredited train-the-trainers programmes, training materials and a centralised platform to allow for the development of the skills that professionals need to create and operate more energy efficient buildings.