How a demo Net Zero home of the future is helping today’s installers 

The Energy Training Academy, an LCL Awards approved centre in Mid Lothian, Scotland, has enhanced the learning experience of its trainees, while helping the wider community understand the benefits of low carbon living, with the construction of a full-size Net Zero home within its centre. 

Renewable Energy Installer caught up with Technical Director of The Energy Training Academy Ian Edgeworth, to find out more.

Renewable Energy Installer caught up with the centre’s Technical Director, Ian Edgeworth, to find out more. 

Although we’ve only been open for a year, The Energy Training Academy team has always been ambitious. The bungalow, which includes a kitchen, living room, bathroom, loft and garage, was born out of a desire to showcase green technologies, creating an ‘ideal’ scenario that enhances the experience of learners on LCL Awards renewable qualifications and our adult apprenticeships which are geared to producing the future-ready heating and electrical engineers. 

The centre is not just for installers, we also want to more generally demonstrate what a truly Net Zero home looks like, allowing the wider community to see first-hand the benefits of this approach. 

Aspirational living 

Thanks to the support of some innovative manufacturers, we have been able to pack the latest low carbon and energy efficient technologies under one-roof. 

Alpha Heating, Worcester Bosch and Groupe Atlantic have supplied high efficiency gas boilers and heat pumps. These also feature in the classrooms elsewhere in the centre. Samsung has equipped the kitchen with the state-of-the-art energy-saving smart appliances and iHelios fitted infra-red heating to some of the ceilings, which can pick up heartbeats in the rooms so that the heating is only activated when and where it’s needed. 

Myenergi has supplied battery storage and EV charging technology and CEF donated solar panels used on the roof. 

Other contributors include the Garage Conversion Company, St Andrews Timber & Building Supplies, which donated the building materials, Ideal Heating, Poly Pipe and Connex. 

We’ve even built a rain simulator, so we can create rainy days inside, allowing visitors to see how rainwater harvesting works. Outside in the ‘street’ we’ve got solar-powered street lighting and EV charging points. This might sound a bit gimmicky, but it’s impressive – and relatable. We want to inspire people into being excited about the future. 

Real-world experience 

Although the focus is on the future, we’re not living in a fantasy. We’re keen that the house is instructive, so different rooms have been set up to different standards. That way we can illustrate the retrofit journey and show people that small changes they make – with insulation for example – can make a big different to their energy bills. 

For installers, the house provides a ‘real’ scenario to practice practical elements of their heating and electrical training, such as a loft space to demonstrate solar panels in operation and a garage that stores batteries, a hot water cylinder and boilers. Advanced heating technologies include air source heat pumps and low temperature, high efficiency gas boilers. 

Supporting these systems are flue gas recovery, underfloor heating, infrared heating, electric wet central heating and electric panel heating. 

The house is built against the back of the centre, so those working on the roof are completely secure with the wall of the main building right behind them. There’s a crawl space, shade and sunlight simulation to create a sense of how the technology works in different light conditions and to provide a realistic experience. 

Apart from practical training, we are also looking at ways to help candidates develop their soft skills, including role-play to teach them how to deal with tricky customers, risk assessments and safety scenarios, such as how to handle a reported gas leak. 

We see ourselves as the vanguard of the carbon neutrality revolution, perfectly placed to deliver a ‘job ready’ informed and educated workforce that will be able to deliver and support the ambitious (but in no way insurmountable) net zero target in Scotland of 2045. 

Community asset 

Primarily, we’re a training provider, but we are planning to set up an energy advice centre for the public, offering impartial guidance on renewables. There’s been a lot of negative stuff in the press about air source heat pumps, so it’s important that those of us who really understand the technology speak up and put the record straight. 

The bungalow is also available for guided tours to show homeowners, companies and policymakers some of the options available on the market to create more sustainable buildings, as well as teaching the next generation about energy efficiency – crucial for a sustainable future. 

The net zero home can, and already has, been used to engage and educate young people on the importance of energy conservation. Senior pupils from the Castlebrae Community Campus secondary school have helped with the building work and we will continue to offer work experience for students going forward. 

As a community interest company, we hold a profound responsibility to the youth of Scotland, striving to serve as a beacon of educational excellence. Through collaborations with schools and further education institutions, we aim to inspire young individuals from diverse backgrounds and genders to pursue careers in renewable technology. 

Passion project 

I joined The Energy Training Academy after 30 years in the gas and energy sectors and a decade in related education. I am passionate about the prospect of positively impacting peoples’ lives, individually and on a grander scale. 

The Energy Training Academy strives to set a benchmark of training and low carbon excellence in Scotland and across the UK. We believe we are unparalleled in our offering and hope to inspire others to follow suit. Collaboration is key, and we’re committed to working with like-minded organisations, such as LCL Awards, for the collective advancement towards net zero. 

Exemplar for the industry 

Mark Krull, Director for LCL Awards, visited The Energy Training Academy before Christmas. He was extremely impressed: 

Mark said: “It’s fantastic to see one of our approved centres investing in the future and demonstrating the potential of the latest renewable and energy efficiency measures. What The Energy Training Academy has achieved is amazing; they are leading the charge by creating this truly unique and invaluable resource – for trainees and also the wider community, who will be able to use the house to find out about low carbon technologies and their potential – as contributors to net zero that also reduce energy bills. 

“Part of LCL Awards’ responsibility in the provision of renewables training courses is to create a well-informed work force that can help educate the public and thereby build confidence in new technologies. The Energy Training Academy is making a great contribution to this aim.” 

Ian concluded: “It’s been an amazing year, we’ve all worked incredibly hard to build the partnerships to get the project underway and to build the house from scratch, but it makes our training centre unique. The synergy we’ve developed with everyone involved and the enthusiasm the house engenders form those who visit is off the scale – it was a gift to have the opportunity and space to build such a project, but now it’s completed we can see that it really is the gift that keeps on giving!”