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Several years ago, when I started working on energy efficient buildings at the Austrian Energy Agency, the klimaaktiv criteria (the Austrian standard for sustainable buildings) was applied to a handful of buildings. The excellence in craftsmanship required for the construction of these buildings, could only be implemented by a few constructors or designers. Now, after many years, klimaaktiv criteria has been integrated into the Austrian public procurement programme for construction of the public buildings. In its adapted version in 2021, all public buildings have to be constructed under this standard, including undergoing an airtightness test. By today the number of klimaaktiv buildings in Austria has exceeded 1200.

At the klimaaktiv conference on September 15th 2022 in Vienna, themed “The reconstruction has begun”, I met many companies and building owners who have dedicated their efforts towards energy efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint. We all agreed that in order to reach our national goal of climate-neutrality in 2040, our efforts need to be multiplied.

“It is not enough that we renovate buildings; we have to raise the quality of buildings, to guarantee energy efficiency and healthy indoor conditions. To reach this goal, a skilled workforce is needed. Training of construction workers and planers is therefore more important than ever”.

My colleague Elisabeth Sibille also underlined this statement when she was invited to speak at the expert forum “design-dialog” in the Hofburg in Vienna on October 7th in front of energy efficiency experts and product manufacturers. Although there is already a lot of knowledge in Austria on energy efficient buildings and how to create new type of products, everyone among the participating experts agreed that there is lack of high skilled craftsmen at the Austrian market. The available knowledge often does not reach the building sites or even the planners.

Within the BUILD UP Skills projects carried out in Austria, we have seen the challenges in the path of training the construction workforce. We developed long (3-5 days) and short (2-3 hours) trainings.

“One of the main challenges is that construction companies are not willing to send their employees to trainings especially because of lack of time, their main argument being that their workers are needed onsite”.

Another barrier is that adding more criteria, such as employment of an energy-skilled craftsmen, leads to less applications for subsidies by building owners. This is conrary to the ambitions of the central and regional governments. Moreover, Austrian central and regional governments currently await requirements regarding the implementation of European guidelines and directives following the “fit for 55” climate package. Before the national impact is not clarified in more detail, they are not interested in tightening actual quality criteria for procurement or subsidies or enforcing laws to companies to train their employees.

That is why at Austrian Energy Agency we chose to get out there and stimulate the Austrian market demand for energy-skilled craftsman, specifially by trying to reach the building owners through energy advisors. Energy advisors support the building owners by addressing the challenges that go together with energy efficient buildings. Within the BUSLeague project, we provided short-trainings for energy advisors according to actual main challenges in the constructing high quality, energy efficient buildings.

Author: Naghmeh Altmann-Mavaddat (AEA)

Date: October 2022