Emagine, a Waterford creative agency recently launched a Virtual Reality training system for the retro fitting of buildings to an NZEB level.

Commissioned by the Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board (WWETB) to complement their existing Retrofit training programme, the team at Emagine created a realistic 3D space that incorporates a series of modules to upskill learners in the vital skills required when they work in the NZEB Retrofit Construction Industry.
‘Nearly Zero Energy Buildings’ or NZEB, means a building that has a very high energy performance. The climate crisis has risen rapidly up the public agenda and has culminated with Ireland declaring a Climate Emergency. Buildings are responsible for 39% of global carbon emissions, making it the largest contributing sector to climate change. In February of this year the government announced the biggest home insulation scheme ever offered in the state. The Climate Action Bill has set a target of retrofitting 500,000 homes by 2030. People will be able to avail of government financial support to cover up to half the cost of deep retrofits for their homes. However, concerns have been raised regarding labour shortages and the insufficient levels of those trained in retrofitting.

Emagine designed a virtual learning environment that mirrored many aspects of the hands-on WWETB course, but digitally. In line with the course’s theme of sustainability, the Virtual Reality simulation allows participants to repeat the training programme unconstrained by time and without the typical waste of materials when working on a physical model.
Michael O’Brien, Innovation and Development Manager at the WWETB explains the importance of this new development, “This is not a gimmick. Virtual Reality allows our students to learn specific skills in a highly immersive environment. They receive immediate formative feedback which facilitates long term memory retention and overall improved performance.”

Peter Grogan, founder of Emagine is excited by the potential for this breakthrough. “This is the future of training and education through-out the world and we at Emagine have always strived to be at the cutting edge of technological design. We were delighted to have the opportunity to tie this ambition with important developments in construction and energy conservation.
“This model has unlimited potential, whether it be the construction industry, pharma, engineering or manufacturing, the state or the private sector now has the ability to train and upskill off site with no loss of production time or material cost. We choose our projects carefully, those which we feel we can make a significant difference with, those that excite us and those with clients who are invested in the long term. In this case it meant replicating many of the physical models currently being used in the Waterford and Enniscorthy training centres.”
The programme is funded through SOLAS and appropriately called ‘Innovation through Collaboration’. It adds Virtual Reality to the retrofit course currently on offer to the construction sector within the organisation's Waterford Training Centre.
In late 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stark warning. To maximise the chances of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC, all sectors of the economy must achieve significant emissions reductions and the global building sector must fully decarbonise by 2050 to avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. It is a global and a national challenge, and the team at Emagine believes this is the first of many similar VR retrofit programmes they will be creating throughout the country and internationally over the coming months and years.