Eco Canada Research

Eco Canada Research explores Skills for the Energy Efficient Buildings Workforce

April 21, 2021

Canada has joined over 120 countries in committing to net-zero emissions by 2050. One way we can achieve this goal is by increasing energy efficiency, which will reduce our reliance on carbon-emitting energy.

The greatest opportunity for achieving this goal lies within the building sector, which has recently been acknowledged as Canada’s “lowest-hanging fruit” when it comes to making significant carbon reductions.

In 2017, Build Smart: Canada’s Building Strategy established a pan-Canadian framework for the building sector in which it stated that “energy efficiency will be the norm by 2030”.

However, Canada’s transition to an energy efficient building stock will require our building sector and its workforce to grow and evolve. The individuals who design, construct, commission, manage and retrofit our buildings are, therefore, in a prime position to bring about changes that will make a lasting impact.

Assessing Canada’s Energy Efficient Buildings Workforce

ECO Canada’s Assessment of Occupational and Skills Needs and Gaps for the Energy Efficient Buildings Workforce outlines the challenges facing today’s building sector workforce to achieve energy efficiency within new and existing commercial, institutional and multi-unit residential buildings.

The report found that many, but not all, of the pieces are in place for a transition to energy efficient buildings. While the technology, equipment, materials, and processes required to build and operate high-performing buildings are proven and available, this research indicates that Canada’s building sector workforce still needs to develop skills and gain energy efficiency-specific experience in order to reach the proposed energy efficiency goals.

Until the essential experience and skills become widespread, this workforce will not be fully prepared to support the development of energy efficient buildings.

The Need for Collaboration

Reaching energy efficiency requires a collaborative approach among multiple disciplines.

The current siloed approaches of the building sector have led to a gap in the soft skills needed for newer methods of building design and construction, such as the Integrated Design Process (IDP) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

Collaborations will need to happen over the building’s life cycle and will draw on communication and negotiation skills and the ability to view the big picture – all of which are acquired through experience or cross-training.

The building sector currently takes a more siloed approach which is in contrast to the integrated work processes across the building life cycle of energy efficient buildings and the energy efficiency mindset. This collaborative mindset drives “building-as-a-system” throughout the building lifecycle, and allows insight into how the building operates, its response to external environmental factors, how the tenants enjoy it and how it holds up over time.

A “building-as-a-system” approach is integrated, collaborative, multi-disciplinary and requires a combination of technical and soft skills.

As workers are increasingly called upon to function within multi-disciplinary teams and use the “building-as-a-system” approach, soft skills such as collaboration and facilitation become essential. Success in this more collaborative approach will require a workforce culture shift away from the current siloed approach to a workplace where individuals in various occupations work together throughout the building lifecycle. Collaboration will also be key when it comes to incentivizing building project owners to pursue energy efficiency goals, and workers to acquire the skills and experience necessary to complete energy efficient building projects successfully.

Grassroots approaches, which are tailored to regional characteristics, have shown success at shifting the mindset of project owners, employers, and workers.

In addition to these regional grassroots approaches, governments, regional economic development groups, industry associations, employers, professional associations, unions, local grassroots organizations, youth groups, diversity organizations, post-secondary educational institutions and training providers can all play a role in the joint effort to ensure that the building sector workforce is prepared to achieve greater energy efficiency.

Eco Canada