Students gain net zero skills at Scotland’s first eco construction training centre

Students gain net zero skills at Scotland’s first eco construction training centre

Students in the ECOHOUSE

Scotland’s first eco construction training centre is teaching students key skills to deliver net zero targets.

Constructed by McTaggart Construction, the newly opened state-of-the-art facility at West Lothian College supports sustainable construction and energy efficiencies. It will provide training for 500 young people in its first year.

The ECOHOUSE has two buildings. One is completed to Platinum Building standards with certified air tightness and thermal properties. The other is a shell house for developing skills, knowledge and practical experience in sustainable construction, as well as efficient and effective renewable energy.

Graeme Dey MSP, minister for higher and further education, officially opened the Skills Centre for Sustainable Living last year.

He said: “This unique launch will help address the changing skills needs of industry sectors aiming to achieve a net zero economy.

“Supporting Scotland’s current and future workforce to develop the skills needed for the net zero transition is a priority and I’m pleased to see our funding used for such an innovative project, especially one so founded in partnership working.”

Students gain net zero skills at Scotland’s first eco construction training centre

Thomas Boyle with Graeme Dey MSP

Janice Russell, managing director of McTaggart Construction, said: “We are delighted to be part of a much-needed project to create a highly skilled workforce for the future, capable of working on the latest sustainable and renewable technologies and meeting industry needs.

“The construction industry has a steep learning curve to support NetZero ambitions, but we are dedicated to a more sustainable future and developing a strategy that will steer us towards a more sustainable and socially responsible future.”

One of the houses is built to low-carbon standards with triple glazing, solar panels, an air source heat pump, heat recovery ventilations and electric car charging. It delivers training and upskilling opportunities in: air tightness testing; thermal imaging; MHVR (heat recovery ventilation) testing; Energy Performance Certificate analysis; PV (devices that convert sunlight into electrical energy) analysis, and; electric vehicle charging.

The shell house is the same size as the main house but with no internal fittings or walls, for developing the practical skills to retrofit to low-carbon standards and test the integrity of the work on completion.

McTaggart Construction recently made two major appointments to support its net zero ambitions with Ross Hammell returning to the family-owned business as CSR manager with responsibility for sustainability and social value.

Students gain net zero skills at Scotland’s first eco construction training centre

Ross Hammell and Loren Mowbray

He said: “I firmly believe in the construction industry’s potential to effect transformative change through partnership and collaboration.

“The house-building sector serves as a highly accessible and visible platform for such transformation, and I am immensely proud of McTaggart Construction’s unwavering commitment to community regeneration and working in partnership to achieve “beyond bricks and mortar.”

Loren Mowbray has been recruited as sustainability manager working with Ross to inform McTaggart staff and support their sites to reduce waste starting at the top of the waste hierarchy (prevention), reduce overall consumption and drive behaviour change.

She said: “In an industry full of innovation and rapidly changing practices, I’m delighted to be a part of McTaggart as we navigate the challenges and opportunities brought by the transition to net zero, and help contribute to a brighter, more sustainable future.

“With the built environment accounting for 25% of the UK’s emissions, it’s crucial to take action and that requires lasting collaboration both internally and externally on sustainable solutions to benefit both the business and the environment.”

Training at the Ecohouse site includes: installation, testing and commissioning of air source heat pumps; PV panel installations; solar thermal installations; alternative forms of internal heating installations; EPC calculations; air tightness testing and monitoring, and; external and internal wall insulation.

Students gain net zero skills at Scotland’s first eco construction training centre

Jackie Galbraith, principal of West Lothian College, said: “Our Skills Centre for Sustainable Living will play a vital role in helping West Lothian achieve its net zero ambitions by enabling current and future workers to gain the necessary skills to build a carbon neutral future.” 

The ECOHOUSE also aims to create high value green jobs; upskill the current workforce in sustainable construction skills and smart technologies for sustainable independent living at home, and; create a future pipeline of skilled workers.

It was designed by MAST Architects and G3 Consulting Engineers Ltd and built with £493,436 funding from West Lothian Council’s allocation from the Scottish Government’s Place Based Investment Programme.

West Lothian Council’s executive councillor for Economy, Community Empowerment and Wealth Building, Kirsteen Sullivan added: “With the growing importance of the green economy, these skills will be increasingly valued by employers so will help students secure good jobs in an expanding sector.”

Partners in the project include West Lothian Council, Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot-Watt University, Built Environment–Smarter Transformation (formerly the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre), industry and housing associations.

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