Just transition for the built environment and construction sector: a discussion paper

This discussion paper is intended to support engagement on a just transition for the built environment and construction sector. Building on this engagement, a draft targeted action plan and route map (late 23/24) will outline the key steps to delivering a fair transition for the sector.

Where Are We Now and Where Do We Need To Get To?


Some key features of the built environment today:

  • New buildings are constructed to meet very good energy standards but can heavily rely on materials (e.g. concrete) that are incompatible with a net zero future. Many existing homes are poorly insulated with low levels of energy efficiency.
  • A lack of available skilled workers and limited public understanding of the changes to buildings that are required curbs greater uptake of retrofit solutions to enhance the energy efficiency of building stock.
  • There is strong innovation in the sector and academic expertise demonstrating proof of concept and providing some examples of best practice to expand upon.

Some of the key features of the built environment we might expect to see in 2040:

Buildings and Homes: Considerable progress has been made to remove poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty. New buildings are constructed to very high energy efficiency standards and with improved measures to take into account warmer temperatures. The construction sector adheres to circular economy principles with minimal waste and widespread use of sustainable resources. Existing buildings have been suitably retrofitted for a changing climate.

Lived Environment: Buildings and infrastructure are now designed to deliver multiple co-benefits, maximising opportunity, investment, and positive outcomes. Scotland is seen as an international exemplar and Scottish businesses and innovations are driving the international just transition of the built environment and construction sector.

Infrastructure: Infrastructure across the country ensures communities are climate resilient, reducing the impact of extreme weather as well as smaller variances in climate conditions. To the largest extent possible, these interventions make use of natural resources, e.g. increased tree planting, installation of leaky dams and other natural solutions for flood management.

Illustrative journeys – what does this mean for you?

Our draft Plan needs to reflect what a just transition means for people in different circumstances and from different perspectives. For instance, what the transition means for people living in city centres versus those living in rural and remote parts of Scotland or those living in rented accommodation versus homeowners.

Over the summer and into the early autumn we want to hear from those within the construction industry, and those most likely to be impacted by the transition of our buildings, to develop more detailed and specific examples of what the transition means in practice.

Discussion points

  • What are the key things you need to see from the transition?
  • Are there particular issues that are not within this paper that need to be considered?

Early engagement to inform this paper

In March 2023, workshops were held with representatives from a range of stakeholder organisations to help shape the vision and aims for our Just Transition sector plans.

A number of cross-cutting themes were identified that are relevant to all sectors. These include: identifying the job opportunities and community benefits that can arise from the transition; ensuring plans are rooted in quality data to enable a holistic approach; and embedding evidence of protected groups in order to tackle existing inequalities.

Key themes identified for the built environment and construction sector specifically included:

  • The need for a sustainable, skilled workforce capable of delivering the building and construction work required across Scotland, including accessible training opportunities for a diversity of people.
  • Greater support for community-led building projects, enhancing community space and improving community usage of public buildings.
  • Ensuring equity of access to energy efficient buildings that are designed and adequately maintained to meet all needs and support users' and residents' health and wellbeing.
  • A planning system that embeds consideration of environment and biodiversity, ensuring our built environment is resilient to current and future climate conditions.

The engagement also identified some particular issues and challenges for the sector:

  • Mainstreaming the required training and accreditation courses to deliver the transition.
  • Overcoming practical issues that make retrofit unappealing to consumers e.g., inconvenience during works.
  • Recognising key groups that could be disproportionately impacted by the transition and ensuring these are factored in the transition e.g., island communities, lower-income neighbourhoods.


Email: justtransition@gov.scot

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