The building sector presents a considerable unexploited potential for cost-effective energy savings. Nearly Zero-Energy Building (NZEB) standards have become a mandatory requirement in Europe for new construction from 2020, however increasing the rate, depth, quality and effectiveness of building renovation remains a challenge since the current European average rate of renovation is only 1.2 % per year
One of the barriers hindering NZEB construction and renovation uptake is the lack of adequate construction skills and the lack of various trade professionals working in sustainable construction.
With the Renovation Wave for Europe objectives of doubling the annual energy renovation rate of residential and non-residential buildings by 2030, and to foster deep energy renovations, the construction sector is confronted with the urgent need to upskill all professionals in the building value chain.
This requires learning how to use innovative approaches and technology solutions to ensure high quality construction with an increased energy efficiency of buildings to the optimal level required for meeting the intended targets.
Aligning the competences of professionals to the requirements imposed both by policy drivers and market demand will ultimately result in a more productive, profitable and competitive construction sector.
Over the last decade, the EU BUILD UP Skills initiative has been helping to increase the number of skilled professionals across Europe. In a recent webinar held in this portal, the importance of education and training to achieve high energy performing buildings was discussed, and in particular in the context of large-scale renovation interventions.
To increase the number of skilled professionals across Europe, online training options are increasingly available and this article aims to provide an overview of some benchmarking initiatives in this field.
With a specific focus on building information modelling (BIM) training, the BIMCERT platform attempts to answer several challenges that are the result of a dynamic and competitive economic environment that requires its workforce to acquire an increasing range and variety of skills, in a short time span, adjusted to their workday and available time.
Gamification appears to be a valuable instrument to motivate and engage trainees in this context, getting them into a learning mission that can result in a rewarded progression. As a result, BIMcert provides an easily accessible portal for training the vast middle tier of construction industry supply chain professionals.
The framework and materials supporting the portal are aimed at improving workers’ BIM, sustainable construction, and energy efficiency skills, thus leading to better collaborative working that guarantees energy-efficient, sustainable buildings and increased quality throughout the entire construction supply chain.
The key point in BIMcert is the non linear learning pathway proposed and the bite-sized training modules supported by micro accreditation.
The Horizon 2020 funded project Net-UBIEP (Network for Using BIM to Increase the Energy Performance) aimed increasing the energy performance of buildings by fostering the wide-spread and strengthened use of BIM during the life cycle of the building.
As part of this project, the ENEA e-learning platform www.formazione.enea.it published e-learning course on the use of BIM to improve the energy performance of building. Although the course is addressed to technicians, it is a useful resource for anybody interested to know more about Building Information Modelling.
In France, following reflections initiated in 2014 by the Sustainable Building Plan and the ADEME Energy Agency, a Sustainable Building MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platform was set up. The MOOC Batiment Durable is a free collaborative training platform involving all professionals in the building sector.
The aims are to increase the skills in the buildings and real estate sectors on the topics of the energy transition and sustainable building practices in general, and also the dissemination of knowledge to the general public on these subjects, with a particular emphasis on the energy-renovation of housing.
Over 25 partners were the signatories of a governance charter to ensure the platform’s editorial line and its sustainability over time, gathering professional organisations and unions, associations, institutions, companies, and training organisations.
As part of the Interreg Mediterranean Programme, the tool TEESCHOOLS was developed as a platform aiming to familiarise users with the concept of energy efficiency for schools. It is aimed at professionals, experts and students from 7 Mediterranean countries (Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, and Cyprus) with the concept of energy efficiency for schools.
This e-course, for instance, provides new solutions to Local Authorities both in technical and financial terms to implement nearly zero energy building (NZEB) renovation activities in Mediterranean schools. To support this aim, the e-course provides up-to-date information on the legislative context, the available technical solutions and existing financial incentives for local authorities of the Mediterranean area.
TEESCHOOLS e-courses are dedicated to local authorities, technical staff of municipalities, consultants, school professionals but also to PhD students and researchers who are interested in understanding how NZEB renovations can be implemented in the school sector.
The ingREeS project, with its focus, priorities and planned activities, followed up on the European Build Up Skills (BUS) Initiative and has focused on the development of skills and knowledge of construction workers in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
An e-learning platform was developped by ingREeS (Slovakia), with 16 modules for the development of national qualifications frameworks and an education and training system, as well as other measures to ensure the development of energy efficiency skills in construction to meet the EU's.
The ingREeS project brings a qualitative change to the system of lifelong learning in the construction sector, which determines the increase of efficiency and participation in educational activities.
Participants in the ingREeS education and training programs will become fully qualified in the field of energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources.2020 energy targets.
Another resource is provided by the PROF/TRAC project, which offers an Open Training Platform and a Qualification Scheme on nearly zero energy buildings for professionals in the buildings sector. The PROF/TRAC Train-the-Trainers aims to develop and certify trainers’ skills on NZEB design and construction. Participation is free of charge, but registration is compulsory.
The Train-the-Trainers (TtT) registration page with more information about the course and the certification conditions is available here. Over 8 online lessons participants will be deeply acquainted with available educational materials, different investigative and educational methods, and the latest knowledge about NZEB.
The objective is to give a competitive advantage to the training providers joining the course by becoming certified PROF/TRAC trainers.
Finally, it is crucial to mention the recently upgraded mobile app for skills in the construction sector, the BUILD UP Skills Advisor app. This tool is intended to provide construction workers with job-specific advice and short upskilling opportunities.
By turning on the app notifications for specific techniques, the user automatically receives updates on the most current courses offered as well as question sets based on practical, real-life situations. In synergy with the BUStoB project, new e-learning modules have been added, covering more than 70 thematic areas and including gamified exercises.
In addition, trainers can now add their own courses and other material to the database supporting the app, ensuring continuous development of content. The project team is currently working with other Horizon 2020 projects under the European BUILD UP Skills initiative to integrate new content for professionals using Building Information Modelling (BIMplement and Net-UBIEP), for building inspectors (NEWCOM) and for self-inspection protocols (TripleA-reno).
More information on 11 EU-funded projects that have driven forward the BUILD UP Skills initiative can be found in a recently published CORDIS Results Pack on construction skills.
Currently and until the end of 2020 BUILD, Up Skills is funded through the Energy Efficiency Calls for Proposals of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme. From 2021, H2020 Energy Efficiency market-uptake activities will move to the new LIFE programme (2021-2027).
A dedicated LIFE sub-programme called Clean Energy Transition will aim at facilitating the transition toward an energy-efficient, renewable energy-based, climate-neutral and -resilient economy by funding coordination and support actions across Europe.
The first calls for proposals are expected in early 2021. Priorities for the LIFE-CET sub-Programme remain under discussion.
Last but not least and without having the pretention to be an online training platform, the BUILD UP portal itselfs acts as a unique source of information and shares and promotes existing knowledge, guidelines, tools and best practices for energy efficiency and renewable energy in buildings across Europe.
At the same time, it informs and updates the market about the legislative framework in terms of goals, practical implications and future revisions.
Considering the EC targets as well as the effects of the 2020 lockdowns and diverse confinement measures (in addition to the challenges already being faced by the construction industry) it is clear that online training platforms and programmes are an essential tool to ensure that climate neutrality ambitions turn into a viable reality across Europe.