Meeting the demand for skilled labor to increase housing supply to an average of 33,000 homes per year, combined with retrofitting 500,000 homes as part of the government’s climate change plan by 2030 “is a major challenge,” said Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan .
But on the day Leaving Cert results were announced, it should be viewed by young people as an opportunity with guaranteed work for the next 30 years, he stressed.
“These are well-paid and well-regulated jobs,” he said, while they would have the status that “these builders and retrofitters will be at the forefront of the fight against climate change.”
Speaking to The Irish Times, the minister insisted on increasing the supply in line with the government’s plan for housing for all published Thursday, combined with a plan to renovate 500,000 homes over the coming years is not an impossible question.
The targets would still create a huge demand for 55,000 construction workers, Ryan said on Friday.
The retrofit program alone will require around 27,000 skilled workers, an important part of the commitment to cut Irish CO2 emissions by 55 percent by 2030, he confirmed. Ireland’s households are responsible for a quarter of total energy consumption and 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr Ryan said the number of apprentices in the construction industry had already increased, with a total of 4,000 this year – though that number should increase to 10,000 a year. However, the shortage of construction workers has been a problem across the western world due to an aging workforce. “We need a new generation of construction workers.”
Last week, 12,000 construction workers were still dependent on government pandemic unemployment benefits (PUP). He hoped these people would return to the sector.
The residential construction plan is strongly underpinned by ecological sustainability, he said and complements the goals and specifications of the national planning framework and the climate plan. A new version of the latter, including commitments to reduce energy and fossil fuels in households, is expected later this month.
The housing plan is also in line with a compact urban growth policy, according to which “a larger proportion of residential and mixed use must be provided within the existing built-up areas of our cities and municipalities”.
The plan underscores how compact growth contributes to a low-carbon, climate-resilient society. As a result, a greater share of development in settlements of all sizes would be sought through urban replenishment and the reuse of fallow land. “Higher densities and shorter driving distances minimize the need for transport and thus the energy requirement,” she adds.
“A plan-driven approach to housing delivery will ensure greater public participation at the earliest possible stage and this is a key principle in environmental sustainability and in assessing the environmental impact of development,” it says.
This approach will “increase long-term visibility and security for housing projects that deliver compact urban growth based on established planning policies, legislation and guidelines”.
New apartments that are being built as part of the plan are to be built in accordance with the “Nearly Zero Energy Building” (nZEB) standard. “In addition, Housing for All will support the Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and Communication in converting 500,000 apartments to a B2-BER by 2030 [rating]“It points out.
The department is to introduce a targeted renovation program for approved housing associations and enable municipalities to provide individual apartment owners with inexpensive renovation loans. From 2025, a roadmap for implementing BER minimum standards for private rental apartments will also be introduced for rental properties.