Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 10 May 2022

New Retrofitting Plan and the Built Environment: Discussion (Resumed)

I have received apologies from Deputy Whitmore. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the implementation of the new retrofitting plan, the built environment generally and embodied emissions and emissions generally from the built environment, including construction and demolition, and everything relating to the built environment with respect to climate, including recycling and reuse of materials. On behalf of the committee, I welcome: from Technology University of the Shannon, Mr. Seamus Hoyne; from the University of Lincoln, Dr. Cathy Daly, archaeological and ethnographic conservator; and from Carrig Conservation International Limited, Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell, head of research. Mr. Hoyne is joining us online and Dr. Daly and Dr. Engel Purcell are present with us in the committee room.

Witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice whereby they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in regard to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative they comply with any such direction. For the witness who is attending remotely from outside the Leinster House campus, there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege and, as such, he may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as does a witness who is physically present.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members they may participate in this meeting only if they are physically located on the Leinster House complex. In this regard, I ask any member joining us online to confirm, prior to making his or her contribution, that he or she is on the grounds of the Leinster House campus.

I invite Mr. Hoyne to make his opening statement.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I am grateful for the invitation to engage with committee members today. In preparing my statement, I have sought to provide insights from three different perspectives to support the committee’s work. First, the context of research, development and innovation will be vital if we are to deliver on our emissions reduction targets. It is imperative that in Ireland we take every opportunity to co-operate with European partners in order that we can gain insights into models, technologies and systems which can support the delivery of our current emissions targets and, indeed, plan for future targets which will arise out of the EU Fit for 55 legislative package and the re-powered EU action plan. Extensive funds are being provided via Horizon Europe, LIFE and other EU funding programmes but more needs to be done to mobilise Irish companies and researchers to access these funds. Communities of practice on areas such as deep retrofit, embodied carbon and related areas which engage researchers with industry partners need to be established to share best practice and drive innovation. All arms of the State, including the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, Enterprise Ireland and others need to continue to expand their efforts and have funding available to grow the knowledge base and deliver innovative solutions into the market.

Compared with many other countries, our bank of building performance data, specifically operational data, is limited and much more needs to be done to conduct research and share such data to facilitate analysis and benchmarking and stimulate further innovation. Data repositories, data-sharing agreements and the clear dissemination of results will increase sectoral know-how and expertise. Just one example of this is research completed by TUS on the performance of air source heat pumps in retrofits, which highlighted opportunities to optimise heat pump performance through appropriate design approaches and the important role that commissioning plays. Improvements of up to 10% on the heat pump coefficient of performance were achieved, leading directly to reduced building emissions, and the results were published in a good-practice guide to inform industry.

The proposed research action within the national retrofit plan on the heat loss indicator, HLI, has become a critical issue. The HLI is an indicator of the overall performance of the building fabric and is currently used to indicate whether a building is eligible for Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, heat pump support. Achieving the required HLI level of 2.3 can sometimes result in significant increased retrofit costs, which have limited energy and emissions benefits. This research task, identified with the retrofit plan, must be completed urgently to unlock the retrofit opportunities for a significant cohort of buildings.

The second perspective I would like to share comes from my role as chairperson of the board of directors of the Tipperary Energy Agency. The agency, which is a social enterprise, was established in 1998 and is a partnership between Tipperary County Council, TUS and other regional actors. It established the Superhomes one-stop shop pilot in 2015. From completing ten retrofits in 2015, it grew to a point where in 2021, it entered into a joint venture with Electric Ireland, with the ambition to deliver more than 8,500 retrofits annually by 2031. Critical to Electric Ireland Superhomes and other one-stop shops will be growing the quantity and expertise of staff within the one-stop shop and of the contractors they work with.

While the national retrofit plan provides the basis on which companies can chart career paths for workers within the sector, there is clear challenge at present within the construction sector to recruit and retain staff. Ireland risks not achieving our proposed emissions targets unless we consider further innovations to attract people to work in construction, and specifically within the sustainable built environment.

The final area I raise relates to education, training and skills development. TUS is leading a consortium to deliver the digital academy for sustainable built environment, DASBE, initiative with the ambition of scaling up the delivery of upskilling in the interconnected areas of energy efficiency, digitisation and the circular economy. DASBE partners already have developed new programmes related to the circular economy, energy infrastructure, digital tools and community energy systems. It recently validated programmes in residential energy retrofit management and the energy renovation of traditional buildings. The majority of these programmes will be offered in online or blended learning formats to facilitate access and have been designed with strong engagement from industry stakeholders. Using a unique digital platform, DASBE will enable those seeking to upskill to target their specific requirements and understand progression pathways and opportunities. Critically, DASBE is co-operating with the further education sector and initiatives such as Build Digital to maximise synergies and impacts.

The challenge of upskilling our workforce cannot be underestimated given the resource constraints that exist, and our plumbers, electricians, construction workers, engineers and architects will be at the forefront of delivering emission reductions in the built environment.

I thank Mr. Hoyne and invite Dr. Daly to make her opening statement.

Dr. Cathy Daly

I thank the Chairman and members for the invitation. I am a senior lecturer in conservation of cultural heritage at the University of Lincoln in the UK and a senior research consultant with Carrig Conservation International Limited in Ireland. My research focuses on both understanding and responding to the impacts of climate change from a heritage conservation perspective. My colleague, Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell, is the head of research and energy at Carrig Conservation International and her work focuses on climate change mitigation in the historical built environment. Our statement will focus on how the adaptation of built heritage and the inclusion of heritage in wider policies and planning can contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. We will also point out some of the challenges facing the sector in fully realising this potential.

While the cultural heritage sector has in the past primarily been focused on managing monuments and landscapes, it is increasingly turning its attention to the question of sustainability and climate action. In 2019, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, ICOMOS, international working group on climate change published The Future of our Pasts. The 2021 European Cultural Heritage Green Paper builds on this with recommendations for both heritage operators and policymakers.

Cultural resources such as built heritage provide societies with meaningful links to their urban, rural, and natural surroundings and help communicate the impacts of climate change and localise climate action. The consideration of culture therefore has the potential to orient different social practices, such as individual behaviour, and to develop place-based solutions that legitimise climate policies. In the Heritage in Climate Planning, HiCLIP, research project we analysed climate action plans from nine different countries and identified 17 thematic activities where culture had a strategic role, including waste reduction, energy efficiency and planning methodologies. However, despite the acknowledgment of cultural resources in visions for sustainable climate action, specific targets were found to be lacking. This identifies a need for more explicit inclusion of cultural heritage and the parallel identification of relevant stakeholders who can ensure the implementation of actions.

In Ireland’s Climate Change Sectoral Adaptation Plan for Built & Archaeological Heritage 2019, CCSAP, we worked with stakeholders to identify nine priority impacts, one of which is maladaptation, that is, human responses to the changing climate that result in negative, though often unintended, outcomes. One of the main causes of maladaptation for heritage is inappropriate energy retrofit works. This may be due to a lack of awareness of the heritage significance, a lack of technical understanding, or both. While the current emphasis on energy retrofitting is important, the integrity of traditional buildings with cultural heritage value also needs to be respected. The challenge, therefore, is to formulate individual building retrofit strategies that create a balance between the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the preservation of cultural heritage. The specific physical properties and existing thermal performance of traditional buildings must be considered as part of the retrofit strategy. The risks of applying insulation materials and methods designed for use on modern construction to traditional structures include damage both to the building fabric and to the health of the occupants.

The sectoral adaptation plan suggested several research and capacity-building actions which are relevant to the current discussion. These include establishing and demonstrating green ways of working within historic buildings, preparing case studies that demonstrate good practice in energy efficiency and climate resiliency, providing training to fill identified skills shortages and gaps in capacity and the creation of a green heritage or green communities award for sustainable reuse and energy saving within historic buildings and towns.

In 2019, Carrig was commissioned by Historic England to compare the whole-life carbon of retrofit versus new construction meeting the current building regulations and nearly-zero energy building, NZEB, standards. This study found it would take approximately 60 years for a new NZEB to recoup the embodied carbon spent in construction. In other words, the greenest building is the one that is already built. According to the 2016 census,16% of all private homes in Ireland were constructed prior to 1945. A large majority of these buildings were, therefore, likely built using traditional materials and methods. Often, the most appropriate insulation for traditional buildings is of a natural type, such as wood fibre, hemp and so on. However, their use is limited by confusion around Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, grant qualification stipulations, a lack of requirement to account for embodied carbon in the construction industry, and cost. It may be years before we truly understand the impact of retrofitting works being undertaken today.

Hygrothermal analysis and pre- and post-retrofit monitoring are essential to reduce maladaptation. However, their importance is not yet widely understood by the construction industry. We would like to see specific grants introduced to cover the costs of hygrothermal modelling and monitoring on retrofits of traditional buildings. This could come with a requirement for anonymised case studies to be made publicly available. In our experience, private homeowners often do not have the resources to commission such works and this is, in our view, the quickest way to start building up a national resource of actual retrofit case studies. The tools, knowledge and skills required to drive the sustainable adaptation of historic buildings are held by small cohort of building professionals within Ireland and support is required to enable broader knowledge dissemination and the upskilling of specifiers and installers.

Our cultural heritage is a resource that holds many lessons in the context of sustainable, low-energy ways of living. In addition, through its capacity for adaptive reuse, the historic built environment can make a significant contribution to a low-carbon society through compatible, energy-efficiency upgrades and the revitalisation of our historic town and city centres, both of which will lower dependency on fossil fuels. This transformation needs to be based on a sound understanding of heritage values and traditional building physics. It requires research and the development of place-based approaches. It also has great potential for engaging communities in bottom-up climate action.

Professional heritage conservation is centred around the concept of managed change using a negotiated, values-based approach. Increased integration of the sector into wider climate strategies would, therefore, be an advantage as Ireland strives to undertake transformational social change in a short period of time.

I thank Dr. Daly for her opening statement.

I welcome to the meeting students from St. Mary's school in Baldoyle. I understand you are guests of Deputy Bruton. I hope the session will be as educational for you as I believe it will be for us. You are all very welcome.

This meeting is confined to three hours and, as usual, I propose that members take two minutes to put their questions to the witnesses and then the witnesses will have much more latitude and can take as much time as they need to answer the questions. If we have time, we will have a second and third round. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank the witnesses. I will be brief with my questions in order to give them some opportunity to answer. Will Mr. Hoyne expand on the importance of the HLI studies and the potential impact of that in our approach to the use of heat pumps and other technologies? He stated that further innovations are needed in order to attract people to work in construction. Has Mr. Hoyne some ideas on that, and specifically in the context of the sustainable built environment?

Will Dr. Daly reflect on Ireland's approach to the retrofitting scheme? Is there a gap or an opportunity there with our approach? We have a tiered number, or a menu, of options. Does Dr. Daly feel the need for a more tailored approach for the types of properties that she has identified in pre-1945 buildings or in a lot of one-off housing? Does she believe there is a need for a more nuanced approach? If so, would that require a different skill set? What might that look like? Do we have enough heritage officers or conservationists?

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I will take the HLI question first. HLI is a measure of heat lost through the building fabric. The original benchmark was set at 2.3 units, or watts per degree Kelvin per metre squared. Essentially, it is a method of measuring the heat lost through the building. It was decided, based on initial modelling, that for a heat pump to work the heat loss indicator should be below 2.3. There are sound physics bases for that. Through the retrofit projects that have been done to date, and the assessments that have been done of buildings, it became clear that for some buildings - and generally this is on a case-by-case basis depending on the building typology and particular physical aspects of building - to get to the heat loss indicator of 2.3 in an existing retrofit could require investment, for example in taking up pavements outside to reduce the heat loss. We could add significant investment onto the retrofit and maybe only achieve a 1% or 2% energy efficiency reduction, or emissions reduction, in that building.

The level of investment required to achieve that is potentially outside the scope of the building owner or homeowner and so, in many cases, those retrofits are not progressing. The proposed study is to look at the efficiency of retrofitting with a heat pump where the heat loss indicator, HLI, is between 2.3 and 2.6. Initial evidence indicates that, with such a HLI, a heat pump will still work very efficiently and achieve a suitable coefficient of performance, COP, and there will be very minimal impacts on the overall running costs and emissions of the building in question. The HLI issue has been being raised for a number of years. The industry is very keen for research to be done urgently to address this issue so that we can potentially amend the guidelines and regulations in respect of the national retrofit plan and funding grant schemes to allow retrofits to progress on buildings whose HLIs fall within the 2.3 and 2.6 band. That is the critical piece of work that needs to be done. The great thing is that we now have a significant number of retrofits done. All of those retrofitted buildings will have a building energy rating, which involves a calculation of the HLI. We can now look at the performance of those buildings and look at the impact of heat pump running costs within the 2.3 to 2.6 band. The numbers need to be crunched to inform the policy decision. That is what is urgent now.

As to the Deputy's second question, which was on innovations to attract new people into construction and particularly the area of sustainable built environment, we need to change the messaging with regard to attracting people into the construction sector, particularly in respect of the sustainable built environment area. We are moving into a space in which a great amount of digital tools are being used. There is an image of the construction or built environment sector as being highly labour intensive. We are now looking at modular systems and a lot of design work being done in offices by very skilled designers, researchers, engineers and architects. On site, we are moving towards much cleaner systems. That is the first aspect we need to get across with regard to the construction and sustainable built environment sectors. That image and messaging needs to be very clear if we are to attract people in.

The other critical issue is that there is simply a lack of workers in the country. We need to again consider looking across Europe to attract people to come to the country and to encourage people who gained really valuable skills after moving abroad in recent years to return to Ireland. A concerted effort is needed. With regard to plumbers and electricians, a very significant amount of work is going on in terms of attracting people into apprenticeships and scaling up the number of apprenticeships but we need to scale those efforts up even further to achieve the numbers we need to achieve.

Dr. Cathy Daly

I thank Deputy O'Rourke for his question. The short answer is that we do believe there are some small changes that could be made that would make a big difference but, if the Deputy does not mind, I will hand over to Dr. Engel Purcell, who will answer in more detail.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

I thank Dr. Daly. The short answer is that a more nuanced approach is required. A few years ago, in 2019 and 2020, we worked with the Heritage Council to design a lecture series. It was very well attended and sold out within two days. We kept expanding numbers. Approximately 120 specifiers attended that five-day lecture series. We brought together a host of professionals, covering all aspects of retrofit in traditional and historic buildings. That was the first step. We now need to move onto training and, possibly, accreditation. To begin, anyone specifying works on traditional buildings needs to understand how they are constructed, how the buildings' physics work and how heat and moisture move through them. This is commonly referred to as the hydrothermal performance of the building. That is the basic conservation training required to understand how these buildings work.

We now have hygrothermal risk assessment, which is condensation risk assessment using modelling and thermal bridge modelling. These are skills professionals will need into the future in order to make sure specifications for the retrofit of these buildings are safe and appropriate.

I thank Deputy O'Rourke for those questions and call Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan.

I thank the witnesses for their presentations. As this conversation continues, I am sure we will learn much more and tease out more of the issues. Mr. Hoyne mentioned that he had experience of this in Tipperary. Regarding the proposed working of the retrofitting scheme, warmer homes scheme and the setting up of the one-stop shops, the last update we had from the SEAI and the Department was that two of the proposed 19 one-stop shops have been approved. I am not sure if that number may have increased at this point. Given the scale of what needs to be done, are 19 one-stop shops nationwide enough to cover the potential demand and need? Given there will be 19, I imagine quite large geographical regions would be covered by each. Would that potentially lead to a lack of competition and a lack of value for money in the carrying out of retrofitting works? Mr. Hoyne might address that.

Dr. Daly mentioned that, for many reasons, the greenest building is the one which is already built. Many heritage buildings of historical value were town centre, high street buildings. If those buildings were inhabited, that would add to their green value and a reduction in emissions because people would be living in town centres and that would reduce the need for car journeys. We are all familiar with these buildings. Many of them, particularly their interiors, are in a bad state of disrepair. To make them habitable would require a great deal of work, involving thousands upon thousands of euro. There would also be the challenge of making them energy and heat efficient, and retrofitting would be needed. It is easier to imagine how stand-alone houses could be deep retrofitted and heat pumps installed. Would these high street buildings pose a bigger challenge? I am referring to high street terrace buildings, some of which include accommodation above shop premises, that, in many cases, were built at the end of the 19 century. Is there a challenge with deep retrofitting these buildings and maintaining their historical and heritage value? I am not sure if Dr. Daly is familiar with the Croí Cónaithe fund and the proposal to grant-aid the purchase of vacant premises by people who want to buy and live in them. I am not sure what figure is being talked about and I do not know if it will go towards covering the cost of retrofitting. I hope that is clear. If Dr. Daly needs me to clarify the question, she can let me know.

The first question was for Mr. Hoyne.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I thank the Deputy for that great question. The most recent update I have is that there are now five fully registered one-stop shops through the SEAI registration system. I understand that the SEAI is working through the process with others. To give some more comprehensive information on the one-stop shops, from Electric Ireland's perspective, it has grown from a Tipperary-based activity. The vision now for Electric Ireland Superhomes is that we operate nationally. The majority of the one-stop shops that are through the registration system are on a national basis. It is open for a potential homeowner in Cork, Tipperary, Donegal or Dublin to engage with any of the one-stop shops to obtain a service. Critical to the one-stop shops is that they will work with contractors in the regions and localities that the homeowner is in. For example, we in Electric Ireland Superhomes are building up that bank of contractors we work with, as are many other of the one-stop shops. Regarding the ambition for Electric Ireland Superhomes, we have a very challenging growth scenario to get to 8,500 retrofits per annum by 2031. That is a cumulative figure of 35,000 to 40,000 between now and 2031.

That equates to approximately 8% of the target of 500,000. As for whether 19 or 20 one-stop shops are enough, in general they should be if there is an equal spread.

In regard to whether there will be a disadvantage depending on the geographical distribution of those one-stop shops, I honestly do not think so because the one-stop shops are working to develop the capacity of the contractors in localities and the regions. It is important that we get that retrofitting expertise throughout the country. It cannot be dependent on a limited number of contractors. These are minor works for existing buildings and we need to do them well. We need to design the systems properly and get them installed, and get the upgrade works done properly within the buildings. To do that, we need to upskill and develop the capacity of existing small and medium enterprises, SMEs, within the regions. That is where the economic benefit will come into the country and the regions through the national retrofit plan. The one-stop shops will scale up the delivery, but the retrofits will be delivered on the ground by the construction companies and the SMEs. On balance, the analysis shows that 20 one-stop shops will be able to deliver the capacity needed, but behind those one-stop shops will have to be a large number of contractors to be able to deliver that work.

Dr. Cathy Daly

In general, the embodied carbon of these heritage buildings is very important to take into account. When we talk about heritage conservation, we are talking about managed change. In order for these buildings to have a future, they need to be comfortable and people need to want to live in them. It is not about the heritage values preventing adaptation and change within these buildings but rather about finding the correct balance and appropriate ways to do it. As the Deputy said, there are also many co-benefits to having people living in towns and revitalising these buildings. The Heritage Council has its town centre health check programme, which deals with this as well. I will hand over to Dr. Engel Purcell, who has more specifics on the retrofitting of these buildings.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

Dr. Daly mentioned the life-cycle carbon assessment of three different retrofits in England. The case studies were given to us by Historic England, and we did not design the retrofits. One of the retrofits related to Victorian terraced housing. Dr. Davey mentioned embodied carbon. The retrofit works, which were quite extensive and which I would call a deep retrofit, accounted for only 2% of the total embodied carbon versus 30% for a new build. In terms of carbon savings, therefore, retrofitting is definitely something we should pursue.

There are risks and we need to be careful, but this may be an instance where, if a local authority were in possession of a run of terraced houses, it could pursue solid-wall insulation across them. The risk in not retrofitting the entire terrace is that there might be thermal bridging or there might develop some condensation risks around those junctions. We need to be sure, therefore, about the types of insulation we are using such that it is vapour-open and will not trap moisture. We need to be sure about the specification details such that there is no break in insulation that could become a thermal bridge. Moreover, we need to be cognisant of the impact of these works on the heritage value. We must ask whether what we are doing will change the value, look or heritage of the building to too great an extent. I am afraid the issue has to be taken on a case-by-case basis.

I appreciate that. What I am trying to get at is how challenging, but also how realistic, is the idea that a first-time buyer or someone who is looking for a home can look at one of these vacant on-street premises and perhaps avail of a Government grant to renovate it and an SEAI grant to deep retrofit it. Is that doable on a large scale? Mr. Hoyne might wish to come in on this as well.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

I suppose it is doable, although it would probably be expensive for a first-time buyer.

What Mr. Hoyne was saying earlier was that we needed more data. We need more data on the retrofit of these traditional buildings through the hydrothermal modelling if we are to develop some sort of library of common construction details or better renovation details, as people have called them, in order that specifiers such as us can go to it, see whether the details are similar to what we have in a building and model ourselves to double-check. It is about guiding the profession to know where to go.

Can I come in on this one?

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell


It is a very interesting question. It is very appealing to us to try to reactivate so much of this stock that is in our towns, villages and cities throughout the country. There is a help-to-buy scheme which is geared towards new buildings for first-time buyers. It has been mooted by members of this committee and others that a help-to-renovate scheme, targeted at first-time buyers, might make sense though I am sure it is not as easy as it sounds. Has Dr. Engel Purcell considered this? Mr. Hoyne may also want to come in on this. If the Government did come out with such a scheme, would the system have capacity to deal with the shift of the workforce towards the existing housing stock? It sounds as though many of these renovations are very difficult. There needs to be a very nuanced and careful approach to them. I am interested to hear the witnesses' views.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

I would love to see a grant scheme directed at these buildings and cognisant of the difficulties and the way in which their retrofit is approached. I cannot really speak to the scale or capacity. I know we are quite busy. We have considerable work going on in this area and more every year. There seems to be demand.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I am happy to contribute. Dr. Engel Purcell and Dr. Daly made a point about capacity building. We have built on the experience of the original programme developed by the Heritage Council and we have just validated a new certificate in energy renovation of traditional buildings. It takes that original lecture series, as Dr. Engel Purcell termed it. That is now a validated module but we have also added a module in terms of digital tools for defect analysis in traditional buildings. The first point is to build up the capacity in the sector. We are launching that programme which will start again in June. We hope to have more than 100 people on that. There is considerable knowledge in the sector in terms of retrofitting and renovation of buildings.

In essence, every retrofit, whether it is on a traditional building or a non-traditional building, is actually unique because it is a home. It is a building. The people who want to occupy it have particular requests or demands and there are particular energy targets. The traditional or culture building brings in additional technical considerations that need to be taken care of. It is those nuances for which capacity in the sector needs to be built in. There will certainly be a percentage of buildings that need expert people and maybe a limited number of those. The first point is to bring existing architects, engineers and specifiers up to speed on the different approaches that need to be taken and the right and appropriate approaches. For the traditional buildings, it is the appropriate solution rather than the technical physics solution that needs to be considered.

Work is ongoing on capacity. The Heritage Council is very committed to this agenda and there is considerable interest. Marrying that with the policy initiatives to allow us to focus on these buildings in town centres will open up capacity for people to live there. We need to make sure we align the policy and the incentives for people to purchase these homes and then retrofit them in an energy-efficient, emission-reduction-friendly and appropriate manner.

The higher education and education and training spaces are certainly very committed to supporting capacity building. There is considerable experience among people in Ireland and internationally on which we can build to address these types of buildings.

We might come back to this later in the session.

I thank the witnesses for the presentations. Will the witnesses give us some of the numbers, in terms of the embodied carbon in a standard three-bedroom home or wherever, that one would save being expended by going for reconstruction, refurbishment and renewal, versus site clearance and starting from scratch? One of the difficulties is that embodied carbon is not on our inventory and many of our international obligations do not refer to it. However it would be useful for us to know, in terms of framing subsidies, what the embodied carbon value is and whether that could be factored in some way into the policy design.

Mr. Hoyne made the point about the risk of overspecification in terms of the spec we have for heat pumps. I wonder, given the gaps in our knowledge and our current capacity, whether this is a more general issue of a tendency to go for overspecification of what should be done in one visit to a building, instead of trying to do all the shallow retrofits early with the capacity we have. I know Grace Park Heights in my constituency does not have great insulation. One could go in and do a shallow retrofit, put in heat controls and try to do the whole estate at once with the capacity we have. Given the state of knowledge and what Mr. Hoyne has said, should we be doing that as an alternative to having one visit and getting the absolute premium product done in one session?

In terms of the scale of labour and the professional, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, said he is planning to spend €8 billion over a decade. That would be matched to become €16 billion over a decade. If we are talking about €2 billion to €3 billion per annum, that is only less than 1% of GDP. Is it really that great a challenge for us to free up the capacity to do that? I know it is coming at a time when we are trying to push house building to levels at which it has not been for years but are we overstating the challenge of capacity? Mr. Hoyne has been close to the ground in Tipperary to try to do this. I am very interested in the refurbishment-demolition balance and what we should do to nudge towards refurbishment.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

I do not have the exact figures to hand but I can get those from our study and send them to the clerk or directly to the Deputy. In general, refurbishment would have much lower embodied carbon because one is using fewer materials. One is improving what is already there. There would be great embodied carbon savings, especially with traditional buildings, if one was using more natural materials which tend to be vapour open and more appropriate for the buildings. Wood fibre is technically considered carbon neutral. If one is using wood fibre insulation throughout, then the embodied carbon uplift will be minimal, but I was not primary researcher on that study. I will contact the primary researcher and get back to the Deputy with more details.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

It is a very good question. Certainly as experience in retrofitting has developed, the original focus for retrofit has been a fabric-first approach, then airtightness, ventilation and introduction of, for example, heat-pump technology, as the mechanism to get one's deep retrofit into the A or B category.

Certainly, in Ireland, as we are greening our grid and decarbonising our grid and the focus moves away from saving kilowatt hours to reducing tonnes of CO2, one can start to have the debate on the analysis where we ask do we need to go for very high specifications in terms of the fabric retrofit measures or can we reduce those slightly or not do the ones that cause significant challenges in terms of implementation, either from a technical or a cost perspective, and get the benefit of the grid to decarbonise the heating, in particular, in the building. There is an evolving debate around that topic in the sector at present and that is happening across Europe. I am secretary general of the European federation of local and regional energy agencies and I work with energy agencies all across Europe. Like most of the engineers in the energy agencies, we would have been very much fabric first and in favour of proper specification for the fabric but now there is that debate that if we really need to reduce our carbon emissions, maybe in some cases we can do a less stringent fabric retrofit and focus on carbon reduction through the heat pump.

Having said that, in the majority of the one-stop shops and, certainly, from the Electric Ireland Superhomes approach, we have very much a design-led approach where we go room by room in terms of the upgrades required in the heating distribution system, and based on the fabric upgrade, the airtightness and ventilation. The other witnesses mentioned that it is important that the homes are comfortable, safe and healthy and those are considerations that we need to be aware of.

Much research has been done on so-called "retrofit passports" where we look at measures over a longer period of time rather than an immediate fix. As Deputy Bruton said of the example the Deputy was speaking about in his constituency, we may go in and do attic insulation, some wall insulation and some heating controls but we are not doing significant upgrades to the heating distribution system or the heating system itself. What is really important in designing those retrofit passports or that staged retrofit is that we avoid locking-in carbon at that stage and we make sure that we design that retrofit so that in another 12 months, when we want to come back in to upgrade the heating systems or install heat pumps that we have not implemented a measure that restricts that.

On balance, however, given the urgency in terms of addressing the emission reductions we have to achieve, certainly, my personal view would be that we go in, do a proper assessment, do the design and try to get that retrofit completed once. For the homeowners, they end up in a more comfortable building much more quickly. We have a lot of experience of being able to do those retrofits very efficiently.

In terms of the capacity, Deputy Bruton correctly pointed out that a significant challenge at present is that we also have the ambition in terms of new builds. The data from the Construction Industry Federation and anecdotally on the ground from a design and engineer and architect perspective, and the quantity surveyor, QS, perspective, and the people on the ground are that it is very competitive to attract and retain staff. The additional complication is that the retrofit agenda is now paramount across Europe and there is mobility of workers, who would have traditionally perhaps come to Ireland to work in the construction sector and who now are attracted to work in any of the other EU member states. There is a capacity issue on the ground. We lost expertise in terms of people who left the country or maybe changed careers during the downturn. We need to bring that expertise back. In saying that, the SME constructive companies are now very engaged in the retrofit agenda because of the multi-annual funding that is in place.

That is critical. The big challenge of engaging them in the retrofit market was that they did not know if there was work next year. Now, through the one-stop shops, they should have a pipeline of work which helps them to retain their workers and have 12 months of work rather than a six months' stop-start agenda. Hopefully, that is useful.

Excellent, I thank Mr. Hoyne.

I might follow up on that, if that is all right. We all realise that we need to get more apprenticeships into the field to be able to deal with our big retrofit plans. The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Deputy Harris, is keen to do that. Mr. Hoyne has seen that the Minister is doing a great deal of work there. The Minister's target is the creation of 10,000 apprenticeships a year. Is that enough or what number do we need to reach to have the number of apprentices coming into the market to be able to carry out these retrofits?

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

That figure of 10,000 was based on analysis done by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, SOLAS and others. The spread of those apprenticeships is important. We have significant capacity ongoing in terms of electricians who are very important in terms of the electrification of the grid but we also need to increase the quantum of apprenticeships in the plumbing field because we are talking about changing out heating systems in 500,000 homes and installing heat pumps in a large number of new buildings.

We also potentially have, apart from apprenticeships, other opportunities for education and development in terms of existing craftworkers - electricians, plumbers and plasterers - who can take the roles of retrofit co-ordinators. They will then start to ply the expertise that they have built over five or ten years as expert craftspeople to become site managers, site leaders and retrofit co-ordinators. That builds a career pathway. That is part of the messaging that we need to get across, coming back to my earlier point, that the image of the apprenticeship or the craftworker has to change. Previously, going into a craft or a trade, one potentially saw it becoming a dead end for a number of years. We now have many development opportunities for those people who may wish to progress their careers. Having served their time as an apprentice and worked as a plumber or electrician, now they can become site managers or expert retrofit co-ordinators. It is important that we develop that pipeline of progression pathways and part of our work certainly is working with the further education sector to see how we develop those pathways.

That is really excellent. Not only is it about creating new apprenticeships and attracting people into the market, it is also about, as Mr. Hoyne stated earlier, trying either to get people to return from abroad or to take them back home. It is important then that people who are currently in those sectors can segue into the retrofitting market and, as Mr. Hoyne said, play a leading role as project site managers or the managers of a retrofit scheme. More emphasis on that is useful.

The retrofit scheme is excellent. A small issue I have with it is my discovery that there is no real update for people who live in protected structures. For example, the street that I live on is all protected structures. There are so many cases where people cannot put in double-glazed windows; they have to stick with single-glazed windows. Such people are at a severe disadvantage and are not able to get their homes retrofitted. It is something I brought up with the Minister previously where it was said that they are trying to look at a steering group to oversee within the Department, the objective of which is to finalise guidance for public consultation later in the year. That will try to give advice to people about how best to retrofit a home when they live in a protected structure. In Dr. Purcell's experience, how does that go about? If I am living in a protected structure, the home is 100 years old and I want to have energy efficient savings and retrofit it, is that an extremely difficult process? The Department is trying to put together something for those people. What is Dr. Purcell's professional view on that?

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

We would certainly welcome guidance from the committee on the process. It is difficult in a way, but there are processes one goes through, including the regular planning process or a section 5 application, to gain a better understanding of whether certain retrofit works are going to require planning permission. Typically, we engage with the local conservation officer from the outset of a project when the building is protected. We have the discussions early on before we get too far down the road. Where there is no local conservation officer, I imagine it is harder. Certain counties do not have one. We need further guidance on how to proceed with the retrofitting of protected structures, again working on heritage value and retaining it in the process.

It is not that there is a hidden cohort but that, unfortunately, a substantial number of people who live in protected structures cannot avail of the arrangement. The sooner there is clarity on how people who live in such homes can avail of retrofitting, the better. It would be really useful. I thank the delegates for the information. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

A guidance document on energy efficiency in traditional buildings is due out soon. It is in the final stages of review. It covers both protected and unprotected structures. There is further information in it.

That will be really useful.

Is the guidance document coming from the Department?

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

As a committee, we would probably be very interested in examining that.

I have to hand a reply to a parliamentary question that states:

..."Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings" is being developed by DHLGH. My Department and the SEAI are participating in the steering group overseeing the project.

The Department hopes to have it published in the next couple of months. That response was last March or April. It would be useful at some stage.

We might even ask the Department if we could have a sneak preview, but the clerk does not believe we might get that.

I will be brief because many of the issues have been covered. I have one point for Drs. Daly and Engel Purcell. The opening statement mentioned confusion over the grant qualification stipulations and the use of more natural fabrics for insulation. What needs to happen? What are the blockages affecting the use of natural materials?

On the 19 one-stop shops getting up and running, previous witnesses have expressed concern over the standard of the work and stated we might be walking ourselves into the self-regulation model, which has been so damaging in the construction industry. Could Mr. Hoyne state whether we should be concerned? Will there be appropriate oversight? If we have 19 one-stop shops operating, who will ensure the work is of a standard such that we will not be retrofitting the retrofits in ten years? I put in a pellet stove in the early days of the SEAI grant. It cost me thousands of euro in repairs because the person who fitted it was not properly trained to fit a pellet stove where there was a back boiler. I am concerned that in a few years we will find ourselves asking whether we should have had more regulation or oversight of the 19 one-stop shops.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

I understand the SEAI retrofit grants that are available require an agrément certificate. The issue is that insulations that are most appropriate for traditional buildings generally just have a CE mark. I will not go into the detail on how an agrément certificate is acquired and the process. We just need better clarity on whether a CE mark is enough for the SEAI grants.

Could I ask one more question, picking up on what Senator McGahon and Deputy Bruton asked about, namely, the skills shortage? We have heard from some about the Energiesprong model, which involves prefabrication off-site. This is regarded as more appealing in that one does not necessarily have to come from the construction industry. One is more likely to get women applying for the jobs. Should we be considering this also?

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I thank the Senator. With regard to quality assurance, there were issues with grant schemes in terms of renewable energy systems in that there was a mismatch between knowledge and experience and the types of systems installed. The registration process for the one-stop shops requires a detailed quality assurance process. From our experience in Tipperary, the typical approach is that where we work with a contractor doing a retrofit for the first time, we shadow him or her. A member of our design team works with the contractor to help him or her to ensure the work is done to the standard set out in all the specifications and guidelines of the SEAI. We also have to produce a BER before and after. As I mentioned in one of my previous contributions, we take a design-led approach. We do room-by-room assessments so we know that what is specified is appropriate for the building. Options for the retrofit are then agreed with the homeowner and the contractor is recruited to deliver them at the price agreed.

The one-stop shops are required to have quality assurance and oversight. Behind that is upskilling of the construction workers. Several education and training boards are now running courses on airtightness, ventilation system installation, external wall installation and all the installation products. We have national training centres. There are to be six around the country. The courses are short courses of one to three days. We put the relevant contract workers through the training. We also have training and education programmes for the engineers. Therefore, there is a multilayered approach to achieving quality assurance. It is a question of the right product in the right place in the right building, designed appropriately.

We have learned many lessons from the past. The SEAI has taken a very diligent approach. Getting through the one-stop shop registration process is rigorous. The board of Electric Ireland Superhomes has had much input into that with the team. Considering how the scheme is designed, I am confident we are avoiding risks.

On the supplementary question on Energiesprong, the theory is perfect. It certainly works in the Dutch model in that much of the housing is very similar. There are many terraced buildings and houses that are exact replicas. We can do a design, prefabricate off site and do a row of terraced buildings relatively easily. It is more expensive, in principle, in some cases. The application of the model in Ireland is not as easy as it might seem initially because we have a significant number of detached and semi-detached buildings. Therefore, we do not have the scale. Notwithstanding that, the principle of the Energiesprong model is one we will certainly see growing in the market. It will be driven not just by the materials that can be developed but also by the radical development of digitisation tools. We are getting to a point where we can survey our house externally using virtual tools on a mobile phone or drone technology. The data end up in an engineer's office. He or she does the analysis and the resulting data are used to prefabricate all the materials to go into the house. In parts of Ireland, we will see the application of that type of methodology, whether it is Energiesprong or something similar, but unfortunately it is not a silver bullet.

Will there be independent spot inspections for quality assurance? It is reassuring to hear that there is a high bar to qualify as a one-stop shop. The fear is that once a place is approved, standards might slip. Will there be unannounced, ongoing, on-the-spot quality assurance to make sure that those one-stop shops retain the standard? Does anyone who is not working out of a one-stop shop have to go through the same criteria of quality assurance to be approved to carry out the works?

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

The SEAI has had a process of spot checks and quality assurance checks over the last number of years. The precursor to the national retrofit plan would have had inspections by SEAI-appointed inspectors, who would check everything. That process will continue. My understanding of the national retrofit plan is that the majority of work will go through one-stop shops. The warmer home schemes or social housing schemes will have a different process and quality assurance measures within them. If a contractor wants to work within a one-stop shop, it will have to align with the quality assurance standards that the one stop shop has signed up to.

I thank the witnesses. I apologise for missing the start of the meeting. I had another meeting to attend. My first question is for Dr. Daly, about the impact of what she calls inappropriate energy retrofitting works and the confusion about what is correct and available. We started with a maladapted system, as Dr. Daly called it. There is certainly urgency but are we anxious to be seen to do something, rather than doing it right?

Mr. Hoyne talked about data collection and performance. Last week, we had speakers on retrofitting and there was the alarming phrase, "retrofitting the retrofits", and all that goes with that. We have much data on carbon and emissions but there does not seem to be any one person or body in charge of those data. I asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications about appointing a carbon tsar. What are the witnesses' views on the data and the future? I recognise that they are operating a competent business with plenty of oversight and checks. Is that being fed into something national, where we can use the data that we recover to make sure that we are not making any mistakes and that we will not end up having to retrofit the retrofits?

Dr. Cathy Daly

The matter of inappropriate retrofitting works and maladaptation came out of our work on the adaptation plan for built heritage. The stakeholders were concerned that it was happening. As part of the adaptation plan, we provided case studies on the different impacts, but we were unable to find case studies on maladaptation, because it tends not to be published. There are case studies in the UK. We have seen houses basically become uninhabitable and it is very expensive to put right. These buildings tend to be breathable and if non-breathable insulation is installed, it creates many problems for the buildings and the people who occupy them. It can be serious and it is expensive, so it is important to get it right. We were talking about vacancy in town centres earlier. Some of this is a matter of maintenance on these buildings, because a wet building is a cold building, so upgrading rainwater goods and having good maintenance is key to this issue. There are many simple non-interventive things that people can do to make their homes warmer and more comfortable.

A stepwise approach also can be taken.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

Mr. Hoyne mentioned a fabric first approach to retrofitting. One starts with an understanding of how the building is currently performing. We started a new project with Dr. Kinnane, who I believe was at the committee's last session, to measure the U-values of the walls of 50 different traditional buildings. There are different build-ups, thicknesses and materials. By doing that, we will have a better understanding of where we are starting. At a building I have been working on, we got an in situ U-value measurement of 0.836 for one of the walls, which is far below the default 2.1 for a solid wall. If people think the situation is worse than it is, then they will over-insulate and not get the savings that they expect. People should understand the fabric first approach at the beginning of any project. Doing that, collecting these data and making them publicly available is a good first step to make sure that we do not do things that we regret down the road.

That is very interesting. With respect to windows, in Part L for nearly zero energy building, NZEB, is 2.0 the requirement? I might have that wrong; I used to know more about this. We believe that single-glazed windows in heritage buildings conduct heat straight through them. Is it the case that our information on windows, as well as walls, and the starting point, is just not good enough? Since we make assumptions about that starting point that may be incorrect, we may then take inappropriate measures. Is it true of windows as well as walls?

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

Yes. U-value testing for windows is much more complicated than for walls. Historic Environment Scotland has done a few technical studies on this. It did the work about ten years ago. One paper, by Dr. Paul Baker, contains a list of measures that can be taken to improve the thermal efficiency of traditional windows. Part of that involves decreasing draughts. Another option is secondary glazing. An option for highly-protected structures that one does not wish to mess with is to have heavy thermal curtains. Historic Environment Scotland calculated the U-value improvements from that mix of steps to improve windows. Those studies have not been done here, but they could be.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I defer to my colleague's expertise on traditional buildings. From a fabric first approach, one must understand how the building operates, particularly in the case of traditional buildings. I refer to one of my earlier comments. Sometimes, with traditional buildings, we need to consider that we can leave a large portion of the building alone and still achieve carbon reductions by potentially connecting to district heating systems, low temperature heating systems or other systems. We need to think about these buildings in different ways and focus on carbon reduction rather than just kilowatt hours of energy.

I am delighted that the Deputy asked about data. This is a bugbear of mine. As a principal investigator and researcher, when I speak with colleagues across Europe, they have a wealth of data on the actual energy performance of buildings, which we are only starting to develop now. Our building energy rating database is one of the best in Europe and the envy of many other countries. Many researchers using that database understand the profile of buildings and the energy performance after a retrofit, but the building energy rating is an asset rating and does not tell us the actual energy consumption.

There are lots of research projects, both ongoing and completed, which have gathered operational data from residential and non-residential buildings, but, typically and traditionally, that building sits in that research project and the information may not be shared or collated. Part of my message is that, as researchers and project developers, we need to figure out how we can collate this data. I am not sure yet what is the best mechanism, but we need additional data to that available in the BER data. We are continuing to gather data on those 20 buildings I mentioned earlier. We will have five years of minute-by-minute energy data on the heat pumps operating in those retrofits. One of those homes is mine, so I am the energy geek looking at my own data to understand what is going on. The process of sharing the data can become complicated because of data protection and research agreements, but we really need to crack that because by sharing the data we can then develop quicker solutions and new innovations.

In the future, our homes are going to very much have interconnected systems. My home is a guinea pig. I have seven different pieces of equipment being tested in my home: one is looking at air quality and one is looking at PV, but they are all different systems that do not talk to each other. We have a lot of work to do to get smarter in how we use data. That is an opportunity for our IT experts, of whom we have hundreds and thousands in this country.

I am interested in talking to Mr. Hoyne about whether there is anything we can do to help in that regard. It is important that we use the data we are collecting in order to keep going and keep doing better. I thank him for his reply.

I am in Leinster House. The discussion is very interesting. I was struck by a few matters, one of which relates to the information on the case studies. I am conscious Dr. Daly and Dr. Engel Purcell also mentioned information. In terms of public leadership regarding public buildings, there is perhaps not as much as I would like, but there are conversations about social housing retrofit - possibly not as much as it could be - but there is a public-first approach, which the renovation wave is talking about at an EU level. Then we have a creation of a new market. We have had some very good discussion on the need for it to have proper oversight. There is also the issue of retrofitting public buildings. I am interested in hearing about what would ideally be a public renovation or retrofitting service which for the next few years would front-load work in terms of social housing and public buildings. That would be a preferred option but, at a minimum, we could have a public procurement contract whereby a lot of public refurbishment, renovation and retrofitting would be happening. In that context, it was mentioned that a lot of risk goes on the individual, especially in areas where the data are not there to the same extent, such as in historic buildings and in older buildings, but if the State was leading in terms of doing a substantial amount of renovation and retrofitting of public buildings, including historic buildings, and then sharing that information it would raise standards in the sector.

The witnesses mentioned the case studies they are tracking. It strikes me that this is a matter in respect of which we need to move on quite fast. It is useful to have the information from Scotland, and to hear about thermal curtains and shutters. So many shutters all around the country were painted shut at a certain point, but they were one of the most efficient pieces that were there. Do we need to have a public programme of retrofitting public buildings, and not just that but their being renovated and repurposed, in order that the information is gathered and that we are not just talking about a specific product people are trying to fit into a listed building?

A related issue is skills development. We talked a lot about the progression pathways in retrofitting and about security of employment, which is very important. In terms of some of the crafts, there has been a push in a particular direction. There seems to be a need for what might have been regarded as heritage crafts or traditional crafts. I refer to the skills associated with repair and refurbishment, both which are often quite time-intensive activities. Should that be part of the new skills development in terms of the environment and energy efficiency so that we can keep buildings in use for the future?

I am sorry, but I must stop Senator Higgins there because I want to fair to other members. We will take those questions.

I wish to mention light. We mentioned how buildings get used. Sometimes a change of light or design can affect energy usage as much as the theoretical energy rating of it as an asset.

I thank Senator Higgins. I will bring her back in. We should have time for a second round.

Dr. Cathy Daly

I thank Senator Higgins for her questions. Yes, definitely, we would love to see public buildings take the lead, provide leadership in the sector, and create those best-practice case studies which could then be rolled out. It is also the case that there are a lot of historic buildings in public ownership. This was something we identified in the adaptation plan. We looked at other sectors. In the transport sector, for example, there are a lot of railway stations. All the Departments are in ownership of historic buildings, and they need to be adapted and become more energy-saving. That would be an easy way to go and to provide those best-practice case studies that we need.

In response to her question about heritage skills, the answer is "Yes". That is another element that we were looking for in terms of capacity building: that heritage skills should be part of that story.

Senator Higgins mentioned shutters. The fact is that we have forgotten how our buildings work and we are also losing a lot of the skills needed to make them work. Both need to go hand in hand. I do not know if Dr. Engel Purcell wants to add anything.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

I will say a few words. In terms of the public sector leading, the OPW is definitely looking into the properties that are in its ownership. Dublin City Council put out a very detailed and good request for tenders recently for the retrofit of housing. In that, it required in situ U-value tests and hygrothermal risk analysis. What it does with that is up to it. Dublin City Council has been quite forthright in other retrofit works that it has done to help inform the process, but some sort of centralised database where the data can be collected or the case studies can be reviewed and put out for public consumption would be valuable to the sector.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I might comment on the public building aspect. It is a really good question. There are two points to make. Not all public buildings are traditional. There is a great deal of work ongoing. I was involved in a study, which was completed last year, looking at the cost of bringing public buildings across all sectors of the State to a B2 energy rating. That brings us back to our data question. It was incredibly difficult to gather data on the quantum, size and energy consumption of our public buildings. This included schools, hospitals, etc. There was differing availability of data. It was an incredible challenge to gather the data.

There are some leading areas in the context of public buildings. The HSE has a very ambitious plan in terms of retrofitting and upgrading buildings. It has done significant work on energy conservation and energy management and the next scale is decarbonisation of its buildings, which vary from large hospitals right down to smaller medical centres.

We are working with the Department of Education at the moment. We are doing benchmarking and energy assessments of more than 500 schools in the south east.

We have good data on the location of all the schools and the quantum of students. However, the energy performance data is patchy across their building stock. That data set will inform their investment plan for the next ten years. Dr. Engle Purcell mentioned the local authorities. Certainly in Tipperary, we have done a huge decarbonisation agenda for public buildings including swimming pools, local authority and municipal district offices. There are examples of really good work for traditional and non-traditional buildings or standard buildings. It is happening and in some cases ad hoc. We are not telling enough people about it and sharing the data. It returns to the point: do the assessment, do the project, share the knowledge as much as possible and collate the data so that we can do it bigger, better and faster the next time.

If there is a chance to follow up later around recycled materials or re-graded, recertification of materials around refurbishment-----

I will bring the Senator back in later because I know that Deputy Farrell is in a hurry.

I thank the Chair. Apologies as I have had some technical difficulties in my office and I was unable to turn on my camera or keep my hand up. However, I have been participating in the meeting from the beginning. It has been a thoroughly interesting conversation. I will return to the efficiency of heat pumps which we touched on at the very start of the meeting. There is a lot of rumour out there around heat pumps. There are reputation issues around, I assume, inappropriate installation or the property simply not being suitable for a heat pump because of a lack of quality finish and so on in the past. Could the witnesses put the mind at ease of any person watching this in relation to the technology and the advancements in heat pumps that have been made over the last decade or so? Many people are interested in pursuing it to get rid of their fossil fuel boiler whether gas, oil or otherwise.

I am interested in the efficiency or effectiveness of the BER system. Taking on board the conversation we had earlier about the other measurements that are really appropriate for near energy zero targets that are there, in addition to the suggestions that were made at this meeting, are there opportunities for us to review the BER to make it more fit for purpose? Maybe that is a bit harsh on the BER. My terminology might not be right.

The Chair touched on windows a few minutes ago. Windows in a retrofit are obviously really important, particularly if you are moving from wooden or single-glaze windows. As one of the witnesses mentioned earlier, many properties, maybe 16%, are pre-1946. I am open to correction but I understand that about 80% of properties are 1990 onwards. My question relates to the numbers of double glazed windows that might have been installed in the last 20 to 30 years in particular and their effectiveness or efficiency in relation to retrofitting. Considering the costs involved and difficulties with obtaining contractors because we are all moving at the same time for the same thing when it comes to roof insulation, cavity wall insulation where a property owner may not be able to afford to replace their windows but it is an objective, has the State done enough on this? Has the technology really advanced so far? Take double glazing that was installed in the mid-2000s. There would have been enormous developments since then. Should they be replaced when we think of the windows available today? Does anyone have relevant expertise or have an experienced best-guess as to what we should aim for on this area? Is the State doing enough in this area of the potential energy lost through windows in particular?

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

That is another great question. This also relates to the question about windows. There has been huge technical development around heat pumps in recent years. Research in TUS and the team that works with me here have seen various reasons for what I might call the under-performance of a heat pump. First is that they might be over-sized. That returns to a point made by Deputy Bruton earlier. There was a tendency for over-specification for heat pumps in some cases. Where a 6.5KW heat pump was needed one of 8.5KW was installed. In some cases that is a safety measure put in by the engineer or it could be a cultural thing where if we put in an oil or gas boiler the price difference between a 20KW or a 25KW boiler is minimal so we just put in the 25KW boiler, for example. However, over-specification for a heat pump has implications for its operation. Without getting too technical there is a cycling of that heat pump and its overall efficiency drops. Our longitudinal study found that in some cases the heat pump was oversized and its heat curve was inappropriate for the building.

The second issue is on commissioning. Typically in a retrofit we are moving from a solid fuel heating system or an oil or gas system to a heat pump. We hear people say that you just leave the heat pump on all the time versus the oil boiler coming on for two hours in the morning or four hours in the afternoon. In fact, typically a heat pump is controlled by a heat curve that looks at temperature. The heat pump is available to be on the majority of the time but the controls are such that the heat pump will just provide enough heat into the building to keep it at a particular temperature. One challenge is communicating the operation of the heat pump to the building owner in the retrofit because it is a new way of living in your home and heating your building. Sometimes well fall down on that. There is an onus on the installers and contractors who are delivering the work to make sure they understand. Our research found evidence where the homeowner was blissfully unaware that the heat pump was underperforming but they were perfectly happy because they were living in a very comfortable retrofitted home compared with where they were previously. We were able to do tweaks in the back end for those homeowners that improved the performance of their heat pump but that did not effect their overall comfort levels. There is still a lot of new product technology emerging onto the market. We need to make sure, and manufacturers are very keen on this, that if I am installing a particular heat pump type that I am trained on that particular technology. They have their own training centres and programmes to make sure their heat pumps are installed correctly and commissioned appropriately because if not their warranties can be voided.

Generally, I would say that the operational performance of heat pumps is very good. Our study found that they were operating with coefficient of performance, COP, of over 3.4 which for air-source heat pumps is very good. That means that for every one unit of electricity put in they we get 3.4 units of heat into the building.

My colleagues may wish to respond on the building energy rating, BER, system in traditional buildings. The system and the methodology has changed in recent years.

The SEAI and the working group that oversee it have brought in many changes. We see very different profiles of buildings now. This is because we are reducing heat loss through the fabric and the energy consumption from lighting and from domestic hot water, which is now much more important. The BER tool, or the dwelling energy assessment procedure, DEAP, has been modified to take that into account. Can it be improved? Absolutely. It is important to understand that the BER tool is what we call an asset tool, which means it is based on an assessment of the assets of the building, on the specification of the heating system and on the fabric of the building, such as the windows, the walls and the distribution system.

As Dr. Engel Purcell mentioned, in some cases we may have to use default values that do not represent the reality on the ground. This is because of the standards that are required by the DEAP tool. We therefore get what are called energy performance gaps, between what our dwelling energy assessment procedure tool tells us and the actual energy performance. Overall, a working group is continuously looking at upgrading the BER and the DEAP tool.

My final point is on windows. Without getting too technical, it important to think of the window as being made up of a couple of components. The first of those is the glazing, the second is the frame and the third is how the window is connected to the building. The glazing is therefore only one part of the energy performance of the overall window. There have been huge advancements in the overall performance of the window components and the entire window frame and glazing. Some of our companies in Ireland are at the forefront of that. We look at this on a case-by-case basis. A building that was built before 2006 might have poorly installed frames and windows that might be introducing thermal bridging, infiltration or poor air tightness into the building. It makes a lot of sense to consider an upgrade of the windows in those situations. When we look at traditional buildings, it is much more complex to make those decisions.

We talk about double glazing versus triple glazing. In many cases, there are now products on the market where a double-glazing product is as effective, as efficient and has a U-value that is comparable to triple glazing solutions. Therefore, there are good technical products out there. If installed, they can give multiple benefits not just for the fabric but also for the overall efficiency. They also start to address air tightness issues and thermal bridging issues around the openings in buildings.

Does Dr. Engel Purcell wish to come in?

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

I will add a few words about the BER. I mentioned a study a little while ago about the U-value testing of traditional wall materials, such as masonry. The objective of that study is to inform the national calculation methodology that is used for the BER. This would make it more representative of the different types of walls that one might find in traditional buildings. That may result in a U-value for different typical Irish limestone, and materials like that. It may be adjustable to the thickness of the wall. That research has just started. I am afraid it will be a little while before we have that information. However, that is one of the objectives of the study. Another objective of the study is to do laboratory testing on all of the material samples we collect, so that we have better data to use in the hygrothermal modelling tools. This is because models are only as good as the data that are used. At present, as far as I know, there are not any Irish material data sets in the existing modelling tools. Having the thermal conductivity, the vapour diffusion resistance factors and those kinds of material aspects factored into those models will only make them more accurate.

I have two very quick follow-up questions. The first of these is in relation to windows. I ask that the witnesses please forgive me for my non-technical phraseology. On the basis that the assessment needs to be made on a case-by-case basis for each property, and given that the air seal is probably one of the most important aspects, can a retrofit be successful in sealing up a property and in ensuring the thermal values of a given property that was built before 2011 are high enough to support the effective use of a heat pump?

Can window taping be simply enough in a context that is specific to the windows, assuming there are reasonable seals on their openable parts? Can this be a solution? There is a level of technical expertise that is needed to evaluate a property. On that basis, from a homeowner’s perspective, is being aware of thermal bridging or of cold bridging at a window, and-or air intake as a result of a poor seal, part of the solution?

My second question is in relation to the data, or to the lack thereof. Is there an opportunity for us to task the one-stop shops? Would they have the expertise to do this? Could we task them through the home retrofitting scheme, or the deep retrofitting scheme, to begin an evaluation that would assist us in improving the scheme and targeting it where we need to go? Rather than just saying there is no source of information and we will let academia sort it out for us, we could be the driver of that data analysis and what it could mean for future schemes.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

I will let Mr. Hoyne take the question about the heat pumps and about calculating when they will be efficient enough. Tasking the one-stop shops might be an avenue by which to do it. Dr. Daly works with the University of Lincoln and with private practice through Carrig Conservation International. The type of work that we are doing in these assessments, which are in situ U-value assessments, is generally done through private commissions and publicly procured projects. The study with UCD is separate to that. Another way that one could go about this is by earmarking funding for this particular testing or modelling so that it will be part of retrofit projects going forward. Not every client will commission it or set aside money for it. They would prefer to go with what they feel is best. However, that might push the budget up too high, especially for private homeowners. However, if there was a grant to do the U-value testing and the hygrothermal modelling, that data could then be anonymised and gathered in some sort of centralised library database. That might be a way to go about it. Mr. Hoyne might have more ideas about the one-stop shops.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I will continue on that point. Then I will return to the question about windows. In the deep retrofit pilot scheme that was run by the SEAI, there was a requirement for the retrofit co-ordinator organisation to install monitoring and metering equipment in a percentage of the deep retrofit buildings. There is experience of doing that. One of the challenges in installing metering and monitoring equipment is that it becomes quite expensive. A potential approach, which could be pursued through the one-stop shops or a parallel SEAI scheme, would be to look at the funding, monitoring and metering systems that we would put into a portion of buildings in order to gather data. That would become available for use by researchers and would also be provided to the industry, to the manufacturers and to the contractors in a useable manner. Then we could start to get the segregated data that could also look at traditional buildings.

I will return to the question about windows and what the best approach is. The typical approach for a one-stop shop is that the assessor who visits the home will do the survey and look at the fabric. As part of that, they will look at the window condition and at the conditions in terms of airtightness, the seals of windows and other aspects.

That information feeds into the overall assessment of the building and the retrofit measures that are proposed to the homeowner. The typical model is that we do the survey, we make the suggestions to the homeowner, we give them an indication of the investments costs for the particular measure and the carbon and the energy-saving benefit of those measures, and recommend a suite of measures for that homeowner, which may or may not include window replacement. I will give a practical example. My home was already at a C3 energy rating when I did my Superhomes retrofit, which was my guinea pig retrofit in 2015. I was one of the first homes to do so. My assessment of the window conditions, and working with the assessor, was that a full replacement was going to be prohibitively expensive because my energy consumption was relatively low already. We did a glazing upgrade and we did an airtightness upgrade around the building. We have issues with thermal bridging but the cost of fixing those was going to be prohibitive. My building is now an A3 rating from both a BER assessment and from an operational energy consumption assessment because I marry the two. It is possible to do a deep retrofit without upgrading the full glazing, but it is case by case and is advised by the energy assessor who does that work with the homeowner at that particular time.

I thank Mr. Hoyne.

I thank Senator Pauline O'Reilly. I want to pick up on the heat pumps. Mr. Hoyne mentioned a fair point. When we are talking about retrofitting, one-stop shops and all of the various workers who are needed to facilitate the volume of retrofitting, a fair point was made that some of the contractors are trained by the manufacturers of many of those products, independently of a national training programme. This is something we should consider when we talk about the retrofitting scheme.

Reference was made to the apprenticeships and the need for those. It is incumbent on all of us in the Oireachtas to ensure that we encourage more apprenticeships. This has not been done for quite some time. I was at an event yesterday where this was being done. We need to see more of that to encourage people to take up apprenticeships.

On the one-stop shops specifically, from our perspective and given the popularity of the retrofitting scheme, it has been oversubscribed. There is an inability to respond to the volume of queries. Mr. Hoyne mentioned the assessors. I already have had contact from people who are unhappy with assessors' reports and want a mechanism by which to feed back in to try to liaise or negotiate certain elements. Specifically, these are issues around older buildings and how to retrofit those. Some of those buildings present certain challenges, as I am sure Mr. Hoyne would appreciate. How does Mr. Hoyne believe we can get around that? Straightforward projects may, for example, be the semi-detached home that was built in the 1950s and the 1960s. When one goes back further than that, and the other witnesses were talking about the 1930s and 1940s buildings, it presents a challenge. The low-hanging fruit is straightforward but I would welcome Mr. Hoyne's views on the more complex buildings.

In his contribution Mr. Hoyne pointed to the pipeline and the guarantee of work. There is a guarantee here for companies that specialise in the area of retrofitting, given the investment. Also in his opening statement, Mr. Hoyne referred to a digital academy for the sustainable built environment and how it was validating programmes on residential energy, retrofitting, management, and energy renovation of traditional buildings. Perhaps Mr. Hoyne will elaborate a little bit on that for us.

I realise that the time remaining to me is zero, and I ask the Chairman for one second please. We could speak about this all day. The inputs and suggestions from Dr. Daly and Dr. Engel Purcell around this are very interesting, including the research project mentioned in their opening statement, which was the Climate Heritage Network, HiCLIP, study of nine different countries and 17 thematic activities. Perhaps the witnesses might elaborate on that for us please. If they could send a note on to the committee, that would be of interest to us.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

On the heat pump training, a number of education and training boards, ETBs, and a number of higher education institutions are also developing heat pump training courses. The vision is that we would be able to provide - if I can use the generic terms - the core training on the heat pump, the physics, the overall technology and the typical performance parameters that heat pumps work with, both for new build and retrofit, through the sector. The manufacturers can just top this up with specific knowledge for their relevant heat pump technologies. This is being worked on at the moment. Currently, the manufacturers are also constrained with demand to provide training and sometimes they are having to find basic training on building physics for potential installers. That could be taken care of centrally through our education system.

Absolutely, the apprenticeship system is evolving all of the time. We now have the Apprenticeship Council and new mechanisms to create new apprenticeships. We are going to see new types of apprentices and apprenticeship models in the coming years as the climate agenda becomes centre forward. For those who are interested in getting into the sector, they can look at the traditional apprenticeships, and the industry and others are also looking at new apprenticeship models where a person can be working and earning at the same time.

The Deputy asked about the assessor's report. If the building is an unusual typology or has particular differences that do not fit into the majority of the boxes that a dwelling energy assessment procedure tool provides, then it causes challenges for the assessor to provide a report that is non-standard. We have all been in those buildings where a home probably has a 1940s component, a 1950s component, a 1970s component and an add-on that was done in the 2000s. There can be four different building types in one location. It becomes somewhat complex. It is absolutely the case that we can deal relatively easily with the standard homes such as the semi-detached or detached buildings. Certainly, the approach in Electric Ireland Superhomes is that where a building is bespoke, we must nuance and manage the assessor's report in a particular way to reflect that particular building's requirements. That is an evolving process. The advice for those people who are unhappy would be to go back to their one-stop shop and engage with them further.

The digital academy for sustainable built environment, DASBE, came about from ten years of research and activity around education, training and sustainable building. The overall ultimate vision is that we must speed up how we educate and train the people working. We cannot wait for the traditional process to deliver the education and training that we need. This is because of the urgency around retrofitting and new build, dealing with traditional buildings, renewable energy development, and the digitisation agenda. This is viewed as a partnership between the Technological University of the Shannon, TUS; what was GMIT and is now Atlantic Technological University, ATU; the Tipperary Energy Agency and the Irish Green Building Council. Ultimately, we are trying to develop programmes faster. For example, the industry sector came to us for our new higher diploma in residential retrofit management. The one-stop shops we engage with have said to us that they need to upskill their engineers to be able to manage the scale of retrofits that we are going to be doing. We worked collectively with the industry to develop and validate the programme in a seven-month period, which in academia is relatively fast, while still meeting our quality assurance requirements. We will be launching that programme in September. In the example I referred to earlier, and which was mentioned, we took an existing continuing professional development programme that was developed with the Heritage Council.

We have attached academic credits to that. We have added additionality so we now have our certificate in energy renovation of traditional buildings and lots more. DASBE is trying to provide the programmes in a flexible way so people can access education, upskill themselves and work in the sector, and so people who do not have the skills acquire them and get employment in the sector. By using the digital academy, meaning online learning or in some cases blended learning where the majority is on line but we bring them in for workshops, practical demonstrations and site visits, we can access more people within Ireland and internationally to upskill and come to work in the sector. It is an industry-academia collaboration funded through the Higher Education Authority, HEA's human capital initiative and our job is to disrupt education and training activity so we can deliver efficient, effective, high-quality programmes in a new way.

Dr. Cathy Daly

I co-led the HiClip research project with Dr. Paloma Guzman from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, NIKU. We did it with the Climate Heritage Network, an international group of institutions and organisations concerned with this issue. We looked at climate actions for their inclusion of heritage. We looked at plans from Cameroon, Colombia, New Zealand, Scotland, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Norway at national level. We also looked at California's state plan and the plans from Yarra, a city in Australia, San Antonio in Texas, and Lagos in Nigeria. We analysed those plans for a number of keywords and for the level at which cultural heritage was being integrated. Many plans mentioned it at a strategic level and acknowledged the importance of it, but it did not filter to the implementation level and showed up very little at the monitoring of actions level. There were 17 thematic areas where it came up and in the statement I mentioned, because they are of most interest to this committee, waste reduction, energy mitigation and so on.

We found a dichotomy between the fact it was being recognised by other sectors as being important and it not filtering into actions. We think that is because cultural heritage stakeholders were not being involved in the drawing up of the plan. The other side of the dichotomy is that many cultural heritage people did not identify they had anything to offer in these areas so the intersections were being missed. There is a gap that needs to be bridged but there is a lot of potential.

We have received much information today that will be very important. Part of that is because we are responding to a crisis. We are in the middle of a revolution akin to the industrial revolution and having to respond on a whole-of-society basis. I sit on the education committee as well as this one, so I am interested in much of the conversation.

A piece has been done around leaving certificate reform by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA. The Minister for Education has added climate as one of the subjects in the leaving certificate, though that will take time to work its way through. There have been changes to the CAO whereby people can apply for apprenticeships directly through the same method. All of these things are very important. I would like to see more practical experience, particularly in the three last years of secondary school as people prepare. One of the difficulties previously was only 5% of girls, for instance, took up apprenticeships. That needs to shift. Do the witnesses have any suggestions concerning that important transition?

There are indications that some courses have greater demand than others. What can we, as a Government, do to respond?

I was interested in the data collection piece around schools. There are co-benefits when it comes to schools because young people may not have energy efficiency in their homes but there is a democratic nature to being in a school where they have the benefits and are living through something, which is more likely to mean they will go into that industry. Is there something we could do to expedite that data collection to fund that and get it working faster?

Mr. Hoyne mentioned Ireland's housing density and one-off housing. He is looking at how to respond to Ireland's uniqueness from the point of view of culture, heritage and housing density. Is there something he can teach us and our planning regulators about what changes need to be made to make retrofitting better and improve energy efficiency so we get up and running faster? What do we need to see in county development plans to enable us to do it faster and better? Do we need to look at whether continuing with one-off housing is the best thing, given that it is more difficult to service, even from a retrofitting point of view?

I believe the first question was for Dr. Hoyne.

There were a lot of education questions there. Apologies.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I will try to capture them all and my colleagues will probably be able to contribute on some of the education questions. The critical piece in terms of education is reframing the discussion around careers in the construction sector in the context of the environmental and climate emergency. I welcome the work on leaving certificate reform. The CAO, apprenticeships and higher and further education being more closely linked and the agenda from the Department for further and higher education are welcomed from our perspective. When a leaving certificate student is looking at careers, does he or she see a career in retrofit management or where he or she is addressing the climate agenda? We need further engagement with guidance counsellors and educators in schools so they understand the types of careers available and the changing careers, and that by going down the apprenticeship, engineering or other routes, people can work in the climate and retrofit sectors. We have talked about technical training, programmes and careers. It is important to note, given what one-stop shops are doing at the moment, that they need sales managers, finance expertise and quality assurance people. There are jobs for many types of careers in the retrofit and construction sectors. We need to frame those and show examples of those type of careers.

In terms of demand, we see through the CAO numbers increased interest this year in environmental programmes broadly, whether that is environmental science, renewable energy etc. The figures nationally look like there is growth in those areas. We will see when the final numbers come out at the end of June.

On the question about working with schools, that data work is ongoing.

The ambition is to have the assessment of the 500 or so schools completed by September. That work is feeding into the Department of Education, which, in line with one of the actions in the climate action plan, is putting together an investment plan for retrofitting and decarbonising schools. This is an important task and the Department has secured funding from the European Investment Bank, EIB, to complete it. It will use then that work to leverage additional investment. As such, addressing schools in this regard is high on the Department's agenda. This work links in with the broader educational activity within green schools.

Regarding housing density and the broader strategic decisions being made at local authority level, for example, through county development plans, TUS has worked with the climate action regional offices for the past year and a half on delivering a climate awareness training programme to all senior managers and councillors in every local authority. That half-day training programme was specifically on climate mitigation and climate adaptation. It looked at the science and driving policies and involved workshops where councillors and senior managers worked together to see what was happening in their respective counties and regions and what priorities they needed to address.

As part of that, we gathered data, which we fed back, on county development plans. A strong move to address settlement patterns is evident. This is being driven by multiple different agendas, with the climate and energy agenda one of those. Many local authorities are reviewing their county development plans at the moment and are taking an active role in addressing the environment and the climate agenda. Housing provision is a multifaceted and complex matter and they have to balance competing actions. From our engagement with local authorities through training programmes, though, they are aware of this issue and having good discussions about the balance that is appropriate in housing settlement plans.

I recommend that committee members examine the outcomes of the heat study completed by the SEAI. It makes strong recommendations on how district heating could be deployed, not just in our cities, but in towns across the country with a view to cost-benefit investment opportunities. Such district heating can be installed in existing developments as well as new ones.

The housing agenda has a large number of moving parts. Critically, for retrofitting current housing, such buildings are typically off the gas grid and dependent on oil, solid fuel or liquid petroleum gas heating systems. They are the priority houses that we can access in terms of decarbonising and retrofitting. It becomes a different proposition in areas that are on the gas grid and where we have to consider competing fuel costs, etc.

I hope that my comments have been useful.

Does the Senator wish to contribute again?

I would not mind, but perhaps some of the other witnesses wish to respond first.

Dr. Cathy Daly

I am part time at the University of Lincoln in the UK. In the UK, there is a push for apprenticeship degrees – we have a masters level apprenticeship degree, for example – so that is not just an issue in Ireland. There is also a move to more transdisciplinary degrees. Climate change is a cross-cutting issue and one that should be taught regardless of what degree someone does. I teach the conservation of museum objects and we talk about climate change. It impacts everyone, and it is important that the education system reflect this.

Through sites, monuments and museums, the cultural heritage sector can play a strong role in educating people about climate change and our response to same.

According to research in the UK, certain sectors of society respond more to the threat of climate change when they are told about the impacts on cultural heritage as opposed to, for example, natural heritage because of their particular personal values. A great deal of education can be done through that sector to communicate the issues. There are also opportunities around citizen science to involve and educate the public via a wider public education platform.

We will be working with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on designing training for local authorities. This is coming about through the adaptation plan for heritage and will happen in the next year.

That is good news. I am pleased to hear about the education activities, including in local authorities.

Mr. Hoyne referred to data analysis on county development plans and how they have moved. Am I correct in saying that TUS has undertaken some analysis of those plans?

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

It was not necessarily analysis. In preparing to deliver to a local authority, we took its existing county development plan or the revisions being considered and performed a high-level identification of measures that were particular to that local authority's region. We were considering broader climate action, adaptation and mitigation. If it was a coastal local authority region, for example, it would have had different priorities than the Laois-Offaly area.

I would not call it a comprehensive analysis. It was a mechanism to engage participants in the training programme. We were feeding back data from their particular regions.

That makes perfect sense. Would there be value in doing something that was more systematic? We could take lessons from examining local development plans and then put together a broader piece in support of the climate action plan and our climate goals.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I am aware that the Office of the Planning Regulator, OPR, is engaging with local authorities on how county development plans are meeting the multiple priorities that they have to address. There may be some oversight or collective viewpoint at that level through the OPR.

It is something on Senator O'Reilly and other members of the committee-----

Have a bee in our bonnets about.

-----have pushed the regulator.

There needs to be some transparency in order that we are all on the same page and know what local authorities are expected to adhere to. It is difficult for them to know, but it is also difficult to look across the country and say that we are meeting our targets when this work is being done differently by the various local authorities.

It is a difficult challenge for the regulator, but it has to be done. Perhaps the committee might consider inviting the regulator to appear before us again. It is the bones of a year since we spoke to Mr. Cussen during our sessions on transport-oriented development and so on.

I will ask some questions. I received a note a few minutes ago that the Minister of State with responsibility for heritage is watching this session. If the witnesses feel that there is something very important that needs to be said, they should say it now. He is very interested. He says that he is a former student of Mr. Hoyne's. We must be in good hands if a Minister of State with responsibility in this area has been guided by Mr. Hoyne.

Dr. Daly's opening statement was very interesting. What came through was a passion for our heritage building stock and an acknowledgement of the challenges in this climate crisis.

It seems to me that if we are trying to protect our heritage buildings, we have to strike a balance between protecting them and encouraging people to live in them, because living in them is protection in many ways. Having said that, no matter what we do, and the witnesses mentioned some very important initiatives around how we can reduce energy costs in heritage buildings, they are still heritage buildings and they are very difficult to work with. I wonder if they need to be treated very differently by the State. No matter what we do, these are going to be expensive buildings to own and run. Does the State need to become more creative with regard to how it supports people who own heritage buildings, both in terms of purchase to some extent and in terms of the maintenance and operation of those buildings? There are grants but the evidence is that the State has not been supporting those people enough because there are so many buildings vacant currently. I would like the witnesses to comment on that.

A related point is district heating, which was mentioned by Mr. Hoyne. I wonder about the potential for district heating for our city centre heritage stock in particular, where there might be waste heat opportunities. It is a question of how to integrate that with buildings. I come from Limerick city centre, which is both medieval in character and also Georgian and there are two separate sides to the city. The Georgian buildings in particular are very big, with huge windows and old stone walls. These are difficult to retrofit and one can only go so far before it becomes cost-prohibitive to own them because of the operational costs. There is a discussion about photovoltaic, PV, for these buildings and whether we should be more generous in the supports we give to these owners for renewable technologies that they might be able to incorporate. Not every building is going to be suitable for a PV installation on its roof and we have to be sensitive to the aesthetic at the street level. However, perhaps there are bigger opportunities for photovoltaics in those buildings.

I want to mention something that has come up a few times in the sessions and to give the witnesses an opportunity to discuss it, namely, how we account for embodied carbon. It is something that is going to happen through the recasting of the energy performance in buildings directive. We are hearing it will not be until 2030 that it is required that countries have an accounting system - an assess and report system, I believe it is called - for embodied carbon. Some countries are moving ahead quickly and it seems to me that, as Deputy Bruton said, if we want to nudge the people and the sector towards renovation and retrofitting, and away from demolition and new build, then it goes back to that point made by Dr. Engel Purcell about knowing what we are starting with. Can we do more, and quickly, with regard to developing those accounting systems? The witnesses might have UK experience in this regard. We understand from speaking with the Irish Green Building Council that the UK is further ahead than us and maybe there is learning from across the water.

I want again to raise the idea of a help to renovate scheme. I do not know if it has been given consideration by the witnesses but it is something that we talk about. The State helps young people and first-time buyers to buy new homes, primarily, and this has driven a lot of new building construction, particularly on the edge of our urban areas. However, an idea that has frequently been mooted in this committee and probably in others is a help to renovate scheme. Have the witnesses given much thought to that? They said earlier they would support it but I cannot imagine it is as straightforward as it sounds. If they have any further thoughts on that, we would certainly like to hear them.

Dr. Cathy Daly

I might make some general points and I will let Dr. Engel Purcell deal with the specifics. In general terms, the Chairman mentioned a passion for heritage and that is true. The heritage sector has recognised that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is the best way to preserve heritage, so we are fully on board this train. We have a tradition of stewardship and we want to preserve heritage for future generations, so we do take a long-term view. It is important to apply that long-term view to the buildings. They have been standing there, housing people, for possibly hundreds of years and they can do the same for another few hundred years if they are treated right.

Retrofitting is possible. Perhaps we cannot do as deep a retrofit and we are not going to get to net zero, but that does not mean that these buildings are energy-inefficient necessarily, that there is nothing we can do or that it is terribly difficult. It is just perhaps not an off-the-peg solution or a solution that is the same as we would apply to a modern building. That is an important point to make.

The other point is that we value heritage buildings for a reason. They have a lot of other benefits that we need to recognise as well in terms of sense of place, identity and tourism, and all of those things need to be put in the pot as well when looking at these buildings. I will pass to Dr. Engel Purcell for the more specific questions.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

The Chairman referenced Georgian Limerick. There are certainly things that can be done to those types of buildings to reduce draughts and improve airtightness. A lot of it goes back to the traditional crafts and working up from those and maybe upskilling people from their original skillset. Photovoltaic, PV, and district heating are options. We may not be able to put PV panels on the front-facing roof but perhaps on an outbuilding or a new extension to the back. Although I do not do modelling for solar PV, the knowledge is there to find a way to make it work.

With regard to life-cycle assessment, we would love to do a bigger study. I was thinking about where we could get data. Perhaps the deep retrofit pilot programme might have the type of data we need to do a larger study to look at how much embodied carbon is actually associated with the retrofit of different types of buildings. A lot of that will come down to the amount of materials used, the carbon intensity of those materials and their use across the board.

I would certainly like to look further into the help to renovate scheme. Is there anything published on it?

Unfortunately not. It is something we are pushing for. Before I go to Mr. Hoyne, I want to ask about the idea of supporting owners of heritage buildings who, notwithstanding all the great things they can do with their buildings to mitigate energy use, are probably going to have higher energy costs. It seems to me that, in order to incentivise people to own and live in these buildings, we have to protect them against those costs to some degree. That seems fair but I do not think anything like that is being done. The owner of a Georgian building in Limerick is treated in the same way as the owner of a brand-new A-rated home in any of our towns and cities and there is no discrimination in terms of the operational costs. This is something we need to start thinking about. We are going to have a situation where swathes of the population live in energy-efficient buildings and are not subject to those costs and, then, we have this very valuable housing stock that is there but the people who own it are going to be prone to very significant costs.

Dr. Cathy Daly

There is definitely a financial issue but there may be a sociocultural issue too.

We do not have enough data to fully understand vacancy. It may be due to financial reasons, but there may be other reasons why they chose not to live in these buildings. It could be a size issue. The ideal scenario is that we make them attractive and desirable. Some of that is financial and some of that involves education and, as I said, more sociocultural work.

Dr. Caroline Engel Purcell

There are conservation grants for doing repairs on historic buildings. By bringing that approach and melding it with the SEAI's grant for retrofitting, the Heritage Council might be in a prime position to advise or help facilitate a grant programme for the retrofit of these buildings. It may be more costly if ornate plasterwork, or such works, needs to be done.

I refer to Senator Pauline O'Reilly's question about kick-starting retrofitting for traditional buildings. We have SR 54, which is for the energy retrofitting of existing modern construction. In the plan, it is stated that this is due to be revised. I do not know if that has started. If there was more technical guidance and a clear pathway to compliance for specifiers for these buildings, which are not protected and do not have such leeway, it would certainly help in giving guidance to the practitioners in this space.

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I will come in on the district heating component. District heating is a system designed for heating multiple heat loads in residential and non-residential public buildings. On balance, the district heating systems I have seen across Europe are equally used to heat traditional or heritage buildings as they can be in more modern buildings. That is down to sensible design.

In some cases, low-temperature district heating and low-temperature heating within a traditional or heritage building is the ideal heating provision. In some cases, this need not be more expensive than fossil fuel heating provision. This is because we are providing a small amount of heat into those buildings at low levels over a constant period, which tends to suit those types of buildings rather than the cycling of temperature changes within them. There is no technical reason why these types of buildings cannot be connected to district heating. It can certainly fit in as one of the heat loads in an overall system.

As was mentioned, PV is becoming a standard across Europe. In a recent meeting I had with the European Commission, it was stated that we should be able to drive around in a number of years and look at buildings that do not have PV and try to figure out why that is the case, as opposed to now where we look at buildings and say it is amazing that they have PV. Depending on planning, as well as aesthetic and other reasons, there is no technical reasons why PV cannot be applied to these types of buildings.

The embodied carbon issue is certainly one about which we need more knowledge and capacity building in the country. Even in academic circles, there are a limited number of people with expertise in the area. We are developing education programmes in that space. We need the tools and legislative mechanisms to drive the industry to require that. The challenge is trying to do it on top of the huge retrofitting programme we have.

In the evolution of products and the evolution of knowledge in embodied carbon, as was mentioned, we can learn a massive amount from the UK where they are more advanced in that knowledge. I am certainly not an expert on the subject matter. We are working on another project on green procurement that looks at low embodied carbon solutions for green roofs and other systems, for example. There is a lot of knowledge across Europe. How we apply that in Ireland and how we procure those types of systems are pieces of the system we have to upgrade.

As for the comment made about the help-to-renovate scheme, the principle of it seems to be a good one to pursue. The ideal solution for building owners who fit within those brackets is that they can take advantage of individual supports, such as one from the Heritage Council and one from the SEAI, as well as from other sources. Sometimes they can be in conflict, in that if a person gets one support, he or she cannot get the other or they do not line up in series. Collective discussion across the various Departments might find a solution whereby the help-to-renovate scheme could be supported and enabled through various funding schemes across Government channels.

We will have to keep pushing on that one. I have another message from the Minister. He points out that we were one of the first countries in Europe that developed a climate change sectoral adaptation plan for built and archaeology heritage. If those present want to speak to that, they are more than welcome to do so, or if they have anything else to say to the Minister, they may say it now.

Dr. Cathy Daly

Yes, we were the first to adopt such a policy. Other countries are developing them. In some countries, heritage comes in but it does not have its own plan. Ireland is definitely ahead of that. The implementation is under way. We have been engaged to monitor the implementation now, so we are very excited to be a part of that. It is something that a lot of colleagues in other countries are very interested in. The Minister is watching us and other people are watching him.

He is literally watching us. Will members indicate if they wish to ask further questions? I need to pop out, so I invite Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan to take the Chair and finish out the meeting. I thank guests for coming in today, including Mr. Hoyne. It was a very interesting session. I call on Deputy O'Rourke.

Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan took the Chair.

I have a question on data gaps for Mr. Hoyne. An argument has been put forward, some of which will have been heard this morning, on the approach taken by the Government in terms of the efficiency of reaching the emissions reduction target and the question around what we are actually measuring, in addition to the piece on social justice and equity. In his contribution, Mr. Hoyne outlined the one-stop shop and provided some reassurance in terms of quality assurance. He indicated that a majority of works will go through that system. However, that is a demand-led system and there is a question around who will be in a position to avail of the supports and whether they are the people in most need. We can define what "need" means but there is certainly a question about the poorest people in the coldest homes, for example, and whether the system can be reoriented to immediately direct those and others here. Senator Higgins talked about a public-led approach initially. I know there are trade-offs in that and I do not want to put Mr. Hoyne in the position of making a value judgment on it. What data gaps exist if we want to reorient the system and direct it, in the first instance, to the poorest people in the coldest homes?

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

It is relatively clear to me, in terms of Government policy, that there is a strong agenda to address the fuel poverty issue.

Lots of studies show that, in respect of socioeconomic and health impacts, addressing fuel poverty has multiple benefits both for the individual and at a State level, so there is a strong priority in that regard. The challenge with the schemes that are working - for example, the warmer homes and local authority social housing upgrade schemes - is implementation. We know where the buildings are. The majority of local authorities have very good knowledge of their housing stock. They have done condition surveys over a number of years. They know the tenants and clients they are dealing with. That carries across for other social housing providers and, in many cases, for those who are in private housing and suffering from fuel poverty. We know where they are and what needs to be done. The challenge is implementation.

Is that the case? We seem to use a lot of proxy indicators, such as who is living in social housing and who is in receipt of fuel allowance, as indications of income. Neither of those is a function of the quality of the house the person lives in. He or she could be in social housing that is A-rated. I think of this in the context of the working poor living in rural Ireland. Do we have that level of granular detail?

Mr. Seamus Hoyne

I am not a fuel poverty expert so I cannot say exactly. Anecdotally, there is a cohort of building owners who perhaps sit outside the traditional cohorts the Deputy has spoken about, namely, those who are in social housing, those who are on fuel supports, etc., and who potentially live in buildings that could be upgraded, but their particular circumstances make it very challenging for them to engage in a retrofit process. Do we know where all those buildings are and who those homeowners are? Certainly not. We have, through the various mechanisms of the State and the other providers, a reasonably good handle on those buildings. The real challenge is implementation. From engaging with local authorities, I understand that the procurement and implementation of projects can be a challenge because of lack of capacity within a local authority to deliver retrofits and, similarly, due to the fact that the approved housing providers have a very ambitious plan in respect of the retrofitting and upgrading of buildings because they realise the importance of that and the overall benefits to them. For those homeowners who do not qualify for supports through the traditional means and for whom engaging with a one-stop shop or a retrofit scheme is beyond their means at the moment, the mechanism to engage with them will have to involve different financial tools other than the grant-led demand scheme the Deputy has spoken about. We are looking at loan schemes, as are the Minister and the Government. There have been previous discussions about other mechanisms to pay back the investment. As we ramp up the scale of retrofits, we can see that the inquiries the one-stop shops are getting are coming from those who are willing and able to afford the retrofits. In addition, however, they are starting to identify those who would like retrofits and who do not qualify through another scheme and for whom the national retrofit plan and the one-stop shop are the only avenue. A piece of work that could be done over the next year is to start looking at those people making inquiries to the one-stop shop who are not in a position to progress and what other mechanisms might be needed to address the needs of those homeowners.

That is helpful. I thank Mr. Hoyne.

This is more a point of information, following on from Deputy O'Rourke, about that Department of Public Expenditure and Reform report from October 2020, which clearly identified that there is a lack of data on the social impact of retrofitting.

It recommended that the CSO provide those to enable us to identify what is the household income of all those who get retrofits, how many people are living in the house and how much they are spending on energy. That measure has been clearly identified for a number of years but has not happened. I am pointing out that we do not have those data and it would be helpful if we had them. The benefit of retrofitting is not only that we reduce our emissions but also energy poverty. I am highlighting that point of interest.

Do members or witnesses wish to ask any further questions or make further comments before we wrap up? No. I see we have pretty much covered everything. This has been a long but very informative and incredibly interesting session. I guess we are still learning. There are so many challenges around the built environment, the retrofitting scheme and reducing emissions but it is safe to say there are also many opportunities that we need to grasp. That information and what we have learned today will help the committee in drawing up its report.

The joint committee adjourned at 1.46 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 May 2022.