Shayne La Combre is the CEO of the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre and Chair of the World Plumbing Council. Recently, he sat down with Master Plumbers Radio presenter Daniel Carroll to talk about the origins of PICAC and importance of training in the plumbing industry.

DANIEL PICAC, the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre, is predominantly a training facility and you’re the CEO of that facility. Can you tell us a little bit about PICAC and how it all came about?

SHAYNE Where PICAC originated goes back to the drought; what we now call the millennium drought. Almost all of Australia was in the grip of that drought.

We were in a really serious position water wise. Coupled with that, a few climate change reports had been published and the state government was also very interested in how we could make better use of water and energy in the built environment.

At the same time, people were not fully appreciating the contribution plumbing makes to that whole equation. When we started looking at the workforce, no one had been trained in these areas. So there was a real appetite to look at what the contribution of the built environment was and then realise, well, hey, plumbing is front and centre here, how can we introduce far more sustainable practices into plumbing?

And that’s where organisations like the Master Plumbers, the AMCA, the NFIA, the National Fire Industry Association and the Plumbers Union got together and started saying “hey, there has to be a better way of doing this”.

We started looking at introducing more training into the apprenticeship, but that was going to take too long because we’ve got water levels decreasing as we’re watching them, right?

So we can’t be waiting two and three generations for this skillset to start coming out. So we had to take some pretty significant action and develop post-trade courses to meet these needs.

DANIEL Buildings account for 40% of the world’s energy consumption and one third of the global greenhouse gas emissions. As climate change continues to have an impact on the planet, the design and engineering of sustainable buildings has become increasingly significant. In particular, net-zero energy, or NZE buildings are quickly moving into the spotlight.

Australia is set to have its very first NZE education and research facility built by PICAC at Narre Warren. Can you tell us a little bit about that project?

SHAYNE I guess Narre Warren just epitomises what the PICAC vision is all about. It’s the next generation. What we’ve tried to do is keep our delivery as contemporary as possible, make sure that we’re teaching the most modern techniques, addressing the most current risks. We are trying to make sure that we’re not just trying to address where our industry is today but try and have a look at where it’s going to be tomorrow and equip people to take up that career option, that challenge

I think that’s probably one of the things that we struggle the most with and it’s a tale of woe for any industry that’s been born, shone for a while and then petered out. It hasn’t looked at how it needs to change into the future. I think one of the great strengths of PICAC in terms of bringing the key industry stakeholders together is we’ve got an eye on that future. Coming together, working together, identifying where the issues are, identifying where the gaps are, and then trying to move forward with a collective impression about what the future’s going to be gives us the best chance to train for that.

And that’s what we’ve tried to create out at Narre Warren. So, yeah it is the first, zero-net energy designed training facility. And what that means is that we’ve been able to use a geothermal system combined with extensive PV panels to have a building that basically generates all its own power, all its own heating and cooling and mechanical energy from mechanical services.

We’ve worked with Monash University, Melbourne University and Deakin University on various aspects of the design to make sure that it’s future focused.

We were fortunate enough to convince the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials to join us in the Narre Warren facility. They run an Australian product certification and standards organisation, one of the biggest in the world, and we’d had a long relationship with them.

So when you look at the facility, we’ve got basically one third dedicated to new product, new technology, innovation, whatever’s coming in and going to influence the plumbing industry. Then we’ve got a central area which includes an auditorium and open space where things can be displayed, forums can take place and knowledge exchanges can occur.

And then you move into the final part of the building, which is of course the training facility. So we go immediately from a product that didn’t exist in the Australian market this morning, to being on display by lunchtime and then introduced into the training delivery curriculum by that afternoon. That’s how responsive we see the environment being created in Narre Warren.

It’s our vision, it’s our hope that we’ll keep our delivery as contemporary as possible so that we’re equipping the men and women who participate in our industry to be able to move forward with development and deliver the plumbing services of tomorrow.


Listen to the full interview here.

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