August 23, 2023
Julia Sable, Acting Associate Director, HCi3
In 2022, the Halifax Climate Investment, Innovation and Impact Fund (HCi3) provided funding to a unique community partnership working to diversify and strengthen the green workforce in Nova Scotia. This pilot project, delivered together by One North End (O.N.E.) Community Economic Development Society and the ReCover Initiative, was designed to enable green career opportunities for African Nova Scotians while responding to emerging workforce needs in the building retrofit industry.
O.N.E. and ReCover’s collaboration takes aim at two intersecting challenges. The first is a systemic employment gap facing the African Nova Scotian community, where members are four times more likely to be unemployed relative to the provincial average. The second is the need to quickly scale up the local workforce to meet Halifax’s target of conducting deep energy retrofits on all buildings by 2040.
Learning by doing at a community centre retrofit project
The Deep Retrofit Training and Capacity Building for African Nova Scotians Program paired African Nova Scotians with industry professionals working on the deep energy retrofit of a community centre in Halifax. ReCover is completing a front-end engineering design study for the Harrietsfield-Williamswood Community Centre to achieve a minimum 75% reduction in energy use.
The approach includes the installation of customized prefabricated panels as a new “skin” around the building exterior and upgraded internal mechanical systems, using materials that reduce embodied carbon. The upgrades are minimally disruptive for occupants and use a total cost of building ownership analysis, which includes utilities, mortgage payments, interest, property tax, carbon tax, inflation, insurance, conversion to non-fossil fuels, maintenance and component replacement, to find the best business case. This Halifax retrofit project will serve as a proof-of-concept initiative with the aim of scaling the approach across Canada.
Throughout the program, three African Nova Scotian participants received mentorship and practical job shadowing in their respective areas of interest, which included engineering, architecture, and construction management. Mentors and mentees first met in person at a kick-off Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) workshop that was open to members of both organizations. In addition to O.N.E and ReCover, companies represented at this workshop included Habit Studio, M&R Engineering, and RSI Projects. Pairings were not assigned until after the workshop, giving participants the opportunity to first meet potential mentors, narrow down what they were looking for and to feel safe with their pairing. Following the job shadowing, insights were collected from both mentors and mentees and a video series was co-produced to capture the experience. The videos were premiered in February 2023 at “Meeting People Where They’re At”, a public event which brought together community, HCi3 and other supporters of the program.
Clip from video series produced as part of the project by One North End
Trust as a foundation to impactful partnership
O.N.E. and ReCover forged a positive and trusting relationship to make this project a reality, designing it in a way that worked for everyone involved. When asked about the relationship between the two organizations, Rodney Small, the Executive Director of O.N.E., stated “I work in community, and ReCover works in climate change, and now we have met halfway to work together.” Both organizations emphasize the importance of trust as the foundation for any project, including the relationship with HCi3 as a funder. Rodney stated that “It all starts with relationship building – we are going to disagree, but it shows we have a healthy relationship when we can get through it.” Emma Norton, the project lead with ReCover, focuses on the shared vision. “We all want the same thing,” says Norton. “What I imagine is everyone has housing, the city is designed for people and not cars, and that we aren’t seeing gentrification, we are seeing more affordability.”
Embodying the LC3 Network principles
In alignment with LC3’s Theory of Change, the Deep Retrofit Training and Capacity Building for African Nova Scotians Program piloted an approach to creating breakthrough solutions that can be scaled and broadly implemented in other cities and organizations.
The collaboration held equity as its core driver, being led and co-designed by O.N.E., an embedded community organization that represents African Nova Scotians, and ReCover, an organization embracing an anti-racist approach as necessary to successful decarbonization at the scale and pace required. The experience of program participants and their resulting learnings offered insights into equitable program design and how it may be improved. The success of this partnership is a small but powerful example of what it means to embed equity at the centre of green workforce initiatives.
Going forward, O.N.E. and Recover have secured funding from additional sources to expand the program into a next phase, which will ensure African Nova Scotians are integral members of the building industry. They have also begun another project to design a deep retrofit on a building within the African Nova Scotian community. The ultimate objective is to create a deep energy retrofit industry that is inclusive, anti-racist and welcoming for all.