- By Tony Boyle, AICO relationsh­ips manager

The scale of the task in reaching and sustaining the Scottish Government’s net zero goals should not be under-estimated.

A recent report from the Constructi­on Industry Training Board suggested around 22,500 new jobs will need to be created by 2028. It is a tight timeline but a big opportunit­y as the sector seeks to close the gap in capability and expertise when it comes to design, specificat­ion, operation and constructi­on of low-carbon, circular-economy solutions. Demand and competitio­n for new green skills and enhanced innovation will be acute.

Residentia­l property accounts for around 20 per cent of Scotland’s total emissions, a concrete indicator of the size of the challenge that lies ahead as initial retrofit activity gains momentum, driving transforma­tion of the housing stock to make it more suitable for the net zero age.

We know that 83 per cent of urban properties run on gas and 65 per cent of rural properties are o‰-grid. The diverse nature of these properties rules out a one-size fits all approach but that is not to say the whole approach to decarbonis­ation should not be integrated and coordinate­d across all organisati­ons involved, from those working in the constructi­on sector now and in the future, to the occupiers and homeowners who need to be convinced to embrace the chance to move away from reliance on fossil fuels and do things di‰erently.

Emissions targets and deadlines have been set for private landlords, homeowners, and social housing providers beneath the over-arching legal obligation­s that emerged from last year’s COP26 in Glasgow: a 75 per cent reduction in 1990-level emissions by 2030 leading on to net zero by 2045.

Working together and collaborat­ion between all organisati­ons within the sector will be crucial when trying to meet these net zero targets. There will be a great strain on the supply chain when it comes to material requiremen­ts and operations and the supply chain should be well prepared to keep up with the inescapabl­e demand that will only grow stronger as the target dates move closer.

Backed up by significan­t estimated investment of £10bn or £12bn over its lifetime, the programme’s long-term ambition for improving the energy e—ciency of Scotland’s buildings presents lucrative and widespread economic opportunit­ies. It is therefore crucial that local suppliers, particular­ly small and medium enterprise­s (SMES) and micro-sized businesses, are able to participat­e to ensure that genuine benefits are realised in communitie­s the length and breadth of Scotland, addressing any potential localised skills and capacity gaps that may be identified.

The cost of retrofit is an obvious stumbling block to the ambition to have all, or as many as possible, properties made ‘airtight’ but that is just a beginning. New build housing developmen­ts are relatively simple to change, measure and monitor under the programme: retrofit properties are another matter altogether. To ensure a successful and fair transition, we need to support and encourage the developmen­t of a range of low-carbon products, materials, systems and components, which will ultimately make deep-retrofit solutions more a‰ordable, accessible and environmen­tally friendly. A nationwide roll-out of solutions, including measuremen­t criteria such as Energy Performanc­e Certificat­es (EPC) ratings, is another challenge to be overcome.

Finally, pro-active communicat­ion and engagement are essential to persuade people of the need to change their longheld habits and adopt alternativ­es to fossil fuel heating systems, a priority in terms of decarbonis­ation. Resident engagement will be key in ensuring a just transition to net zero. Costs and methods will also vary depending on available materials, properties and location. Consequenc­es we are not fully aware of are currently being broached by The Housing Safety and Wellbeing Taskforce which brings together stakeholde­rs in a single platform to help collaborat­e, inform and share best practice. The Taskforce has a brief to consider how best to address the human aspect in all this as we seek to e‰ect sustained change and reach the goal of a net zero society.


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