Greening and growing Victorian plumbing:
environmental sustainability and green jobs
through change in the plumbing industry
Plumbing Industry Advisory Council
response to the
Victorian Climate Change Green Paper
The plumbing industry is on the frontline of efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change in the built environment. As well as plumbers‟ evident role in capture, re-use
and efficient use of water, plumbing industry services and products have a major impact on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, because of the industry‟s role
in installation of space heating, airconditioning and hot water systems.
Victoria‟s 21,000 plumbing practitioners, working within about 4,000 plumbing businesses, are performing more than 700,000 jobs per year and most of these have an impact on energy and water consumption in buildings and their surrounds. Plumbers install and maintain most of the water using and energy using utility services in buildings and, as noted in the Green Paper, “residential and non-
residential buildings, their operation and the activities around them, account for around 33 per cent of Victoria‟s greenhouse gas emissions” (p. 39).
Plumbing could have a much greater positive impact on Victoria‟s environmental
sustainability and future economic growth. For instance, if the State‟s plumbers were
motivated and equipped to offer sustainability assessment reports (when they were at a customer‟s property for a job or a quote), the green upgrade projects prompted
by the reports would alone bring major sustainability and job creation benefits.
If Victoria‟s plumbing workforce as a whole had strong green skills and attitudes, if participant firms and suppliers to the industry were effectively pursuing innovation and entrepreneurial growth, and if government policy settings concerning plumbing were well informed by applied research, the plumbing industry would become a powerhouse for tackling climate change and developing new jobs in the State.
1Report after report has pointed to the construction sector as having high potential for mitigating and adapting to climate change along with generating economic benefits. Adoption of the practical ideas put forward in the Plumbing Industry Advisory Council (PIAC) response to the Victorian Climate Change Green Paper will be a large step forward in translating this identified potential into a reality for Victoria.
The PIAC proposals for greening and growing Victorian plumbing are encompassed in three programs:
Program 1: Sustainability is everyday work for plumbers
Program 2: Sustainability skills for Victorian plumbing
Program 3: Sustainable plumbing applied research and innovation.
Governance of the programs would be the responsibility of a steering group comprised of government departments and agencies involved in sustainability in the built environment. Industry consultation would take place through PIAC and working groups formed for programs and subprojects as needed. The Plumbing Industry Commission (PIC) would have administrative control and performance accountability. The recently established Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre (PICAC) would be the focal point and venue for many of the activities.
1 see Commercial Opportunities under Climate Change: Green Construction, The Allen Consulting Group, June 2009; Victoria’s Greenhouse Opportunity Set, The Allen Consulting Group, April 2009; The Second Plank – Building a Low Carbon Economy with Energy Efficient Buildings, Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, 2009; Victoria – The Green Jobs State, Environment Victoria, 2009; An Australian Cost Curve for Greenhouse Gas Reduction, McKinsey & Co, 2008; Green Gold Rush, Australian Conservation Foundation & Australian Council of Trade Unions, 2008; Growing the Green Collar Economy, CSIRO-Dusseldorp Skills Forum, 2008.
Program 1: Sustainability is everyday work for plumbers
The primary component of this proposal is the PlumbSmarter Package program – as outlined below.
PlumbSmarter Package Overview
incentives for plumbers to conduct 200,000 sustainability assessments over 5 years
an estimated 150,000 green upgrade projects after 6 years
climate change benefits
; ongoing energy & water savings in the built environment
; greenhouse gas emission reductions economic benefits ; increased jobs in Victorian plumbing firms and their suppliers ; new Victorian capabilities in green plumbing services & products
culture change benefits
; green behavioural & attitude change among Victorian plumbers
; greater demand by plumbers for higher levels of green knowledge
delivery of 200,000 simple ; 4 gigalitre annual water saving retrofits & sustainability after 5 years ; energy saving through less brochures
use of hot water
In addition PIAC is proposing:
; a pilot phase of the PlumbSmarter Package
; related training as a condition of participating in PlumbSmarter Package ; a complementary communications campaign.
Unique benefits of the PlumbSmarter Package proposal
The practical advantages of the PlumbSmarter Package compared to related programs include:
; higher uptake, because the service will be offered selectively at properties
where a plumber (already onsite and often with prior experience at the property)
judges that an assessment is likely to result in a green upgrade ; clearly lower transport, marketing and other overhead costs
; not being dependent on property owners taking the first step
; an ability to have a strong impact in buildings occupied by small to medium
businesses as well as in homes
; both water and energy encompassed in the sustainability assessments and
subsequent upgrade projects
; job creation in businesses with an ongoing niche in the market, versus jobs that
rely on continued funding by government
; easily scalable: more funding will deliver more PlumbSmarter Package services
and/or more comprehensive sustainability assessment reports
; the Plumbing Industry Commission‟s ability (as industry regulator) to protect the
program against abuse or poor quality delivery
; the program producing built-in sustainability improvements in buildings, versus
relying on people‟s green attitudes and behaviours being maintained
; the program‟s goals being pursued through market mechanisms once
prompted by the proposed incentives.
The PlumbSmarter Package program will also have the advantage of being supported by PIAC‟s two other proposed programs. The three programs will work in
tandem and perform best if adopted as a total package.
The proposed $23.5 million budget for this program over five years is a significant 2investment, although clearly lower than the cost structures of comparable initiatives.
The budgeted cost will however be strongly outweighed by the program‟s economic as well as environmental sustainability benefits.
With respect to economic benefits, assuming industry turnover (labour and materials, plumbing firms and their suppliers) averaging $2,000 per green upgrade project, the turnover generated by the planned 150,000 projects will be $300 million. Around 400 3jobs generating wages of $100 million over five years will be created. This boost in
green demand will generate new capabilities and innovation leading to longer term economic growth in the plumbing services industry and its supplier industries.
Regarding environmental sustainability benefits, the main impact will be through the 150,000 green upgrade projects and this benefit cannot be estimated at this point, because the composition of the upgrade projects is not yet known. Broadly, building services delivered through regulated plumbing work are estimated to account for 170 petajoules (21%) of Victoria‟s total final energy consumption and 410 gigalitres per 4year (71%) of Victoria‟s urban water consumption. Consequently, even a 5% cut in
this consumption as a result of the program will produce major environmental benefits. The simple retrofits component of the program will be delivering a four gigalitre per year saving in water consumption at the end of the five year period.
2 see PIAC response to the Victorian Climate Change Green Paper, pp. 13-14 3 see PIAC response, pp 18-19 4 see PlumbSmarter: the path to a greener plumbing industry, Plumbing Industry Advisory Council, June 2008
Program 2: Sustainability skills for Victorian plumbing
The key elements in this proposal are outlined below.
workforce inflow initiatives current workforce initiatives workforce outflow initiatives Larger, better qualified and Development of a higher level of Longer retention of plumbers & „greener‟ recruitment into the environmental sustainability skills successful plumbing Victorian plumbing industry and knowledge among Victoria‟s businesses in the industry workforce through initiatives 21,000 plumbing practitioners through initiatives including: including: through initiatives including: ; a career advice program ; marketing of plumbing as a ; on-the-job sustainability advice aimed at retaining baby green collar career in an by PIC compliance auditors boomer plumbers in green industry with a strong future roles (such as sustainability ; a PIC continuing professional assessors) over the next ; full integration of green development program focused decade competencies into the on green plumbing & related national plumbing business opportunities ; a career lifecycle advice apprentice program program, tailored to the ; PIC initiatives giving public typical stages in a plumbers ; voluntary additional training recognition to plumbers who career, aimed at a higher in sustainability for learn & adopt new green proportion of plumbers plumbing apprentices practices having successful careers ; pursuit of a enhanced ; development of a website & remaining committed to public sector program of „knowledge bank‟ of the industry plumbing apprenticeships sustainability advice tailored to
with industry leading plumbers, their businesses & standards their customers
plumbing workforce management plan
other skills initiatives
better match between less price inflation driven energy & water saving a green skills future demand & supply by plumbing skill projects enabled by competitive edge held by in the Victorian plumbing shortages sufficient supply of Victorian plumbing
labour market plumbing skills
higher rate of growth in faster rate of climate the Victorian plumbing change adaptation & industry mitigation in Victoria‟s built environment
Key features of the sustainability skills proposal
If Victoria‟s plumbing workforce as a whole has strong green skills and attitudes, along with ready access to sustainability advice valuable for the success of their businesses, the State‟s building stock will be more quickly and effectively adapted to the era of climate change. Victoria‟s plumbing firms will have a labour resource enabling them to take advantage of the business opportunities opening up in a carbon and water constrained global economy.
Over the next five to ten years, there is a clear risk of a large gap between demand and supply of plumbers, in particular a shortfall of plumbers with green plumbing skills. Implementation of Victorian and national sustainability policies is likely to be delayed, more costly or simply not possible within the wanted timeframes.
The Sustainability skills for Victorian plumbing program is a package of training and
information initiatives aimed at tackling these issues. The package gives highest priority to measures that will upgrade green knowledge in the current workforce, such as the proposal to bring green advice to plumbing worksites day to day via compliance auditors, who carry out around 20,000 visits to plumbing sites per year.
The package includes ideas for increasing the workforce retention rate, for example by supporting older plumbers shifting into new green roles in plumbing firms such as sustainability assessors. The package also addresses the quantity and quality of the labour inflow, including promoting plumbing as an attractive green collar career. The outcomes of the program will include:
; more plumbers giving better green advice to customers
; more customers of plumbers adopting water and energy saving solutions ; better ability to meet government sustainability objectives
; avoided plumbing cost increases driven by skill shortages (avoiding an
estimated $10 to $40 million increase in the cost of plumbing projects) ; avoided abandonment and delay of green plumbing projects.
A summary of the budgets for already identified skills initiatives is shown below.
Sustainability skills for Victorian plumbing total
$1,250,000 on the job sustainability advice
$850,000 continuing professional development focused on green plumbing
$500,000 sustainable plumbing website resource
$250,000 public recognition of green plumbing training & green practices in work
$150,000 water-saving skills training for the fire services maintenance workforce
$450,000 promotion of plumbing as a green collar career
$450,000 voluntary additional green training for plumbing apprentices
$125,000 „greening‟ the plumbing apprenticeship national training package over time
$550,000 industry-leading public sector program of plumbing apprenticeships
$500,000 plumbing career & plumbing business advice programs
$150,000 plumbing industry workforce management plan
The total five year budget requested for this program is $8 million, allowing scope for
further expenditure of $2,775,000 over the period.
Program 3: Sustainable plumbing applied research
An outline of this proposal is shown in diagram form below.
funding criteria & process established by government steering group in consultation with industry, administration by Plumbing Industry Commission
Areas already identified as likely candidates Further areas to be supported will be identified for support include through requests from industry and government. ; field evaluation of hot water system options & installation
; upgraded sustainability assessment tools in Broadly, the program will be able to offer field a plumbing environment data gathering and technical expertise, enabling development and evaluation of green ; development of a central database of plumbing policies, products, services and applied research knowledge concerning standards. More specifically, further areas green plumbing products & services & likely to be addressed include: related government policies ; reducing greenhouse gas emissions & ; provision of advice about regulatory raising efficiency of energy use in large & requirements, government supports & other complex gas installations aspects of introducing new plumbing products or services ; stormwater management ; principles & practical tools to establish a ; efficiency of allotment-scale pumping „sustainable systems‟ approach to systems plumbing work ; adaptation of underground pipework to changed climate conditions
outcomes of applied research & support for innovation
; positioning of Victoria globally as a leading provider of green plumbing
services & products
; better design & management of government climate change policies
affecting plumbing work, plumbing businesses & plumbing industry suppliers
; better assurance about the environmental & other impacts of new green
plumbing services & products
; a higher rate of successful innovation in plumbing
Key features of the applied research and innovation proposal
This proposed program will meet key research and industry development needs and support innovation in plumbing products and practices, aimed at climate change mitigation and adaptation. The program will:
; contribute technical expertise and field data gathering to development and
evaluation of government sustainability policies, in areas such as hot water
systems, solar power and energy usage by gas appliances
; focus on filling key gaps in plumbing industry knowledge regarding
sustainability products and practices
; assist with development of greater specialist expertise
; work to gain funding contributions from industry
; have a research agenda driven by plumbing industry participants and suppliers ; facilitate innovation through advice on introducing new green plumbing
products and designs and other support for innovators.
The benefits of the program will include:
; better technical information and evaluation data informing government policy
; business and employment opportunities arising from green innovations in
plumbing products and practices
; water and energy saving from new plumbing products and designs ; valuable feedback for plumbing product and service providers
; improved consumer satisfaction with the performance of sustainable plumbing
equipment and systems.
A summary of the anticipated budgets for already identified potential projects under this program is shown below.
Sustainable plumbing applied research & innovation program total
$2,500,000 hot water systems applied research
$1,000,000 sustainability innovation gateway
development of a sustainable system approach to plumbing $500,000
The total five year budget requested for this program is $7.5 million, allowing scope
for additional expenditure of $3.5 million over the program period.
The case for change
In summary, PIAC believes government should invest in motivational, skills, applied research and innovation programs for Victorian plumbing. The resulting sustainability and economic benefits will far outweigh the requested support.
Support for this view is in investigations ranging from the Stern Report through to the papers presently being finalised for Victoria‟s Green Economy Strategy. The Green
Paper itself notes “One of the top areas for action in the Climate Change White Paper will be to drive improvements in the energy performance of the State‟s built environment, with potential areas for action including:…buildings…skills…innovation
and industry development” (p. 40). Building efficiency is highlighted as an option for reducing emissions in the Paper, and the built environment is one of the main economic sectors identified as opportunities for complementing the impact of a national Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
PIAC proposes that the Plumbing Industry Commission administer the programs, with policy direction by a government steering group and industry advice from PIAC. Industry-government working groups would be established per project as needed. The advantages of administration by the PIC include:
; strong working relationships with the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre
and the many other industry and government stakeholders involved ; clear accountability and assurance of probity
; low cost overheads (a PIC administrative framework is in place and staffing in
sustainability roles can be increased within this structure)
; the Commission‟s ability to communicate effectively with all plumbers
; PIC‟s ability to draw on regulatory powers and specialist expertise, to guard
against program abuse, ensure consumer protection and help drive the
The Victorian plumbing industry has a proven ability to work collaboratively and productively across the wide spectrum of stakeholders involved, as recently shown in the development of the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre. The PIC has demonstrated its ability to facilitate industry initiatives.
Governments are understandably wary about giving financial support to particular products, firms or industries. However Victoria now faces the unprecedented challenge of climate change, and PIAC believes that driving green change in the plumbing industry should be part of the Victorian government‟s suite of initiatives.
Timing and budget
The proposed five year budgets for the programs are shown below.
Sustainability is everyday work for plumbers $23,500,000
Sustainability skills for Victorian plumbing $8,00,000
Sustainable plumbing applied research & innovation $7,500,000