UN Centre of Excellence for Enniscorthy

By Dan Walsh

Minister for Housing and Local Government Darragh O’Brien T.D. and Cllr. Barbara-Anne Murphy, Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council, in a virtual event, signed a UN Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) designating the High Performance Building Alliance (HPBA) as a designated UN Centre of Excellence in Enniscorthy at the recent COP 26 Climate Change Conference. 

The initiative signals Ireland’s commitment to the sustainable and energy efficient development of buildings in an initiative led by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe outlined by Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary and Scott Foster, Director of Sustainable Energy at the UNECE.

Wexford County Council (WCC) and Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board (WWETB) worked together to establish the centre of excellence as the first local authority provider of NZEB social housing and the first Education and Training Board to provide NZEB training nationally with over 1,000 people trained to date at the WWETB NZEB training centre in Enniscorthy. 

Cllr. Barbara Anne Murphy-Chair addressed the COP 26 event and outlined how the High Performance Building Alliance aims to be a leader and champion of high performance energy buildings and to increase knowledge, capacity and demand for low carbon emissions buildings. In particular the HPBA will advance innovation and lead in the use of sustainable solutions through collaboration with the global Network of Centres of Excellence.  

The UN Centre of Excellence at Enniscorthy is already named as a key driver in reducing carbon emissions in the built environment and providing training for the construction industry in the National Development Plan. The UN status now elevates the HPBA to represent not just Ireland but to be a global leader working in collaboration with UN centres from other Nations.

Pictured at the UN virtual signing at Government Buildings of the High Performance Buildings Alliance in Enniscorthy as a Centre of Excellence at COP 26. From left; Tony Larkin, Deputy Chief Executive Wexford County Council, Liz Hore, Head of Enterprise & Economic Development Wexford County Council, Minister James Browne, Cllr Barbara-Anne Murphy, Chairperson of High Performance Building Alliance and Wexford County Council, Minister Darragh O’Brien, Paul Kehoe TD, Michael O’Brien Innovation and Development Manager at Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board and Kevin Lewis Chief Executive of Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board. Photo: Mary Browne.

The built environment and construction sector is central to tackling climate change, with buildings consuming as much as 70% of the electricity generated globally and accounting for 40% of Co2 emissions. High performance buildings are designed to use minimal amounts of energy for heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation with a range of benefits for both the environment and the people who live and work in them.

Providing education and training and other critical resources the centres will support their local industries to move forward in line with the UN framework guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings.  

The WWETB flagship Enniscorthy training centre model funded by SOLAS, is now being rolled out by the Irish government to four other regional centres in order to ensure the industry has trained and skilled staff in working in the delivery of energy efficient buildings both new and retrofit. 

Wexford County Council are currently recruiting a new Chief Executive for the HPBA and establishing the HPBA headquarters with the UN centre in Enniscorthy.

The Board of the HPBA involves a number of key stakeholders, government departments, state agencies, NGO’s and Industry including Tomas O’Leary from Mosart architects, an Enniscorthy native who is an industry leader in energy efficient buildings in Ireland. 

It is expected in 2022 that the HPBA initiative will host an international event to launch the UN centre in Enniscorthy and to showcase international speakers on how the built environment can address climate change while providing warmer, and better homes for people.

Liz Hore, Head of Enterprise and Economic Development at Wexford County Council gave a comprehensive presentation on the UN MoU at last Monday’s monthly meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council held in the Presentation Centre, Enniscorthy.

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