FOLLOWING the official opening of the world’s largest Passive House Premium-rated building in September –South West College’s Erne Campus, in Enniskillen – last Wednesday, November 3, saw the education hub become one of the first buildings across the globe to join an elite network of high-performance buildings recognised by the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

Representatives from the college, led by Dr. Barry McCarron, joined UNECE Executive Secretary, Olga Algayerova and Michael Matheson MSP, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre in Glasgow to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, further underlining South West College’s commitment to sustainability and renewable technologies.

The built environment and construction sector is central in the fight against climate change, with buildings consuming as much as 70 per cent of the electricity generated globally, and accounting for approximately 40 per cent of C02 emissions.

High-performance buildings – including the Erne Campus – are designed and constructed to have a low impact on their natural environment, and to use minimal amounts of energy for heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation.

The framework supporting the UNECE Centres of Excellence initiative for high-performance buildings focuses on three key pillars: reducing energy consumption, increasing the carbon stored in the buildings, and a greater use of building materials that are low in embodied carbon.

Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, said: "Buildings and the built environment must be the highest priority for action by communities and countries to deliver not only the Paris Agreement, but also the whole 2030 agenda [to help tackle climate change].

"Buildings are critical across all the sustainable development goals. The goals go beyond decarbonisation, though decarbonisation is the most urgent as the climate crisis is existential.

"In fact, when we succeed with this initiative, we will have made a major step in breaking the historic link between development and carbon emissions."

Dr. Barry McCarron, Acting Head of Business Development at South West College, reflected upon the sustainability work undertaken by the college in recent years.

He said: "The announcement of the Erne Campus as the first building in Northern Ireland to join this global network is a significant show of faith from the international community in the work that has been undertaken by the college over the past ten years.

"Membership of this network will offer untold opportunities for the college, and our industry partners, to collaborate with and learn from some of the most innovative organisations from across the globe.

"With the opening of the Erne Campus, we are firmly in a position to take a lead on the work that will be undertaken by the group."

Dr. McCarron continued, saying South West College wants to ensure that new and existing buildings meet the highest possible environmental standards and will ultimately help to reverse some of the impacts of climate change.