October 29,  2021

THE BC BUILDING TRADES-COMMISSIONED report Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions (2017), concludes that the building and construction trades are vital to meeting Canada’s climate goals.

This may not surprise those in the industry who already find themselves reducing the globe’s carbon footprint.

“It’s what we do,” says Neil Munro, BC Insulators Local 118 business manager. “Our jobs are green jobs — great Jobs.” The BC Insulators have long recognized the crucial role of mechanical insulation in low-carbon construction, promoting awareness of the issues.

Electricians, too, find themselves on the front lines of this green transition. It’s expected that new wind and solar power projects will make a significant contribution to the future energy grid, with solar considered to be rich in potential construction jobs.

“I would say we are the cutting edge of green technology,” said Phil Venoit, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 230. “We built the windfarm in Cape Scott 10 years ago.” The windfarm was the first utility-scale project of its kind to be developed on the West Coast of B.C.

Local 230 members also had a hand in building the solar parkades at two government facilities on Vancouver Island, said Venoit. As a result, the B.C. Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sydney and the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo are now able to offset incoming hydroelectric power with solar energy. Efficient building construction and retrofits are expected to account for a lion’s share of future construction jobs.

Venoit said Local 230 members are working on innovative projects that allow a building envelope to control temperatures inside a building, via glass panels placed outside the building. Similar panels, which become opaque or clear with the “flick of a switch,” have been utilized as privacy shields in doctor’s offices.

“We know the Green Tsunami is coming,” said Farid Poursoltani, director of business development for the Electrical Joint Training Committee (EJTC), which is a partnership between IBEW Local 213 and the Electrical Contractors Association of B.C. The school is installing an entire solar energy system to be used for hands-on training and for generating electricity for the centre itself.

“We now have a fairly good-sized system for training and we’re very excited about it,” said Poursoltani. “Our apprentices and journeypersons will know exactly how the PV (photovoltaic) solar system is connected to the battery storage system and how that whole arrangement is connected to the grid. They will understand how such a system can be utilized to offset the carbon footprint,” he said.

The EJTC is also a licensed facility for the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program, which certifies electricians in the safe installation of electric vehicle charging stations.

The bottom line for construction workers? “There are millions of hours of work in green jobs,” said Munro.

Venoit said he believes B.C. is highly sensitive to climate change and to where the rest of the world needs to go. There is tremendous potential to unlock other forms of power such as that generated by wave turbines, which is relatively low-impact technology that could be installed up and down the B.C. coast, he said.

“The move away from fossil fuels is going to require a huge restructuring of our infrastructure program,” cautioned Venoit.” Electric cars will require more transformers and heavier electrical wires to homes, for example.

“What we need to be grappling with is the idea that we have to change,” he said.

By Megan Terepocki