UB School of Architecture Partners with PUSH Buffalo | web supplement

BUFFALO — In legacy cities like Buffalo, where there’s much older housing stock that hasn’t been weathered, there’s a need for workers in energy efficiency and clean technology. But, there is currently a shortage of these workers due to a lack of training opportunities.

A partnership between the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning and People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo) aims to change that with a collaborative workforce training program that will create pathways to jobs that pay a living wage for the unemployed and underemployed in Buffalo. .

The Community Climate Leadership program will prepare interns for decent, stable, and paid employment, while developing “citizen architects” who can take on a greater advocacy role on behalf of their communities.

PUSH Buffalo’s new Sustainable Workforce Training Center, a 2,500 square foot net-zero energy building, will house the six-week program. Participants will receive hands-on training preparing them to become weatherization installers and technicians, energy auditors and other jobs for the local green workforce – positions for which there is high demand but the workforce artwork is rare, according to Nicholas Rajkovich, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Architecture, who is leading the UB effort.

The project builds on PUSH Buffalo’s efforts to expand local employment opportunities and advance economic and climate justice through the knowledge and expertise of faculty members at the School of Architecture and Planning on how to adapt the built environment to extreme weather and climate change.

While having a significant impact on Buffalo’s green workforce, project partners point out that the program could also serve as a model for communities across New York State to follow as they move towards implementing the state’s ambitious Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Recruitment from Buffalo Priority Populations

PUSH Buffalo will recruit participants from the region’s unemployed and underemployed populations, the groups most often directly affected by the problems the interns will learn to solve.

“Energy efficiency and clean technology projects in legacy cities are often complicated by health issues, such as poor indoor air quality and lead exposure, associated with older building stock,” Rajkovich said.

“In cities like Buffalo, which according to the U.S. Census has the oldest housing stock in the United States, these environmental exposures disproportionately impact frontline communities. Additionally, residents living in these communities face multiple socio-economic barriers that can prevent access to stable, gainful employment.

PUSH’s job hall will help connect workers with local employers and additional support services.

Local jobs in energy efficiency and clean technology pay workers a living wage, allowing them to support a family, while stimulating the local economy. Additionally, many green jobs require certifications for workers to progress in their employment, and this new program will provide those opportunities for participants.

“New York State has placed itself at the forefront of climate action through its Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires that 70% of New York’s electricity come from a renewable source. renewable energy by 2030,” said PUSH Buffalo Executive Director Rahwa Ghirmtazion. “Through this innovative university-community partnership, we hope to provide a model of workforce training that supports the just transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy.”

Marketable Skills for UB Architecture Students

The partnership between UB and PUSH Buffalo includes a significant component of the curriculum for UB’s School of Architecture and Planning.

Graduate students will serve as instructors for the energy efficiency and clean technology programs taught at PUSH Buffalo’s Sustainable Workforce Training Center. They will receive the knowledge and training to teach interns through a series of courses beginning in fall 2022 and culminating in a PUSH Sustainability Workforce Training internship in 2024.

Classes for UB students will be integrated into the Master of Architecture program of the School of Architecture and Urbanism. The education program will introduce UB students to a variety of fields and career paths in energy efficiency and clean technology to broaden notions of the opportunities they can pursue with a degree in architecture.

The certification and training will position graduates as uniquely qualified among their peers, says Laura Lubniewski, adjunct instructor and Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) who co-leads the effort with Rajkovich.

“These certifications help distinguish graduates in the competitive job market as they are equipped with the most innovative knowledge and skills to implement energy efficiency and clean technologies in design projects,” she said. declared. “This specialized expertise can also generate opportunities to take on leadership roles within an architectural or engineering firm.”

“Their optimism and dynamism are contagious”

Graduate research assistants from Rajkovich’s Resilient Buildings Lab worked with PUSH Buffalo to develop a training program, as well as assess the energy efficiency and sustainability aspects of the new building.

Gwyneth Harris is a recent alumnus of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning who worked on the project.

“I was so inspired by the amazing work the people at PUSH do every day,” says Harris, who now works at Trautman Associates. “Their optimism and drive are contagious. Working towards a more just, sustainable, and resilient future for my community has truly been a ray of sunshine in the midst of the global pandemic, and it has been so rewarding to contribute to what I consider a vital mission.

Prior to graduating, Harris received funding from the UB Foundation to develop a grant proposal for submission to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to support curriculum development for the program.

“NYSERDA is thrilled to support initiatives like the Community Climate Leadership Program, which demonstrates a successful collaboration between the University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning and PUSH Buffalo to help nurture the next generation. workers for promising clean energy jobs,” said Adele Ferranti. , director of workforce development training at NYSERDA. “Programs like these are needed across New York State as the state undergoes its transition to a green economy, and I’m sure others will look to this program for inspiration.”

“I feel encouraged to know that there are so many other people working towards similar visions of a just and resilient future, not just in big, important places far and wide, but right here in my neighborhood,” says Harris, who grew up in West Buffalo. Side.

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