Operational efficiencies save $250,000 a year

The University of Northern British Columbia sits on Cranbrook Hill above Prince George and has made sustainability and energy efficiency a priority since it first opened in 1994.

Continuous Improvement through Operational Efficiencies

UNBC first enrolled in BC Hydro's Continuous Optimization Program in 2012. The program offers eligible large commercial customers financial incentives, tools and support to ‘tune up’ their buildings through the process of recommissioning.   The primary focus of the Continuous Optimization Program is on reducing the energy consumption of heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems by making improvements to the building automation system. 

From 2012 to 2018, Prism reviewed a total of nine major buildings on campus.  During the first phase - Investigation – we thoroughly examined the operation of HVAC and lighting control systems, and developed a report outlining recommendations for improvement and associated energy savings and costs for each measure.  For the next phase – Implementation – we supported UNBC where necessary to implement the selected measures for each building. This included preparation of specifications and sequences of operation for optimized control.  The final two phases – Hand-Off and Coaching – involved verification that the measures had been implemented, and quarterly coaching reports to ensure the measures are still operational, and to verify the actual savings through analysis of energy data.

Thanks to a highly engaged and technically experienced Energy Management team at UNBC and support from Prism, a comprehensive list of energy measures throughout the nine buildings have now been implemented.  In-house expertise on the building automation system allowed the measures to be implemented with very little external contractor support and allowed for refinement of the measures after they were implemented.  Management support of the entire project even involved re-writing the job description and job title of UNBC’s chief building automation technician for a multi-year period to shift the focus towards implementation of these measures. 

Some of the measures identified Prism that were implemented as part of the project included:

  • Revisions to weekly and holiday schedules
  • Optimization of damper and economizer controls
  • Demand controlled ventilation
  • Static pressure resets
  • Unoccupied control of exhaust fans
  • Unoccupied control of laboratory air exchange rates
  • Lighting controls
  • Revisions to hot water pumping control strategies.

Through the monitoring and verification (M&V) process included as part of the Coaching phase, Prism was able to confirm that over 2.4 GWh/year of electrical savings were achieved as a result of the project across the nine buildings, equating to savings of approximately 18% over baseline.  Fuel savings were not included in the M&V process but were expected to add an additional 14,090 GJ/year of biomass and natural gas savings to the project.  An article published by BC Hydro estimated that the Continuous Optimization Program have saved UNBC more than $250,000 in utility costs in 2017. 

Prism is proud to have played a key role in the success of this project, and to be working with such a great team on site.  As UNBC continues their path towards becoming even greener with more aggressive emission and energy reduction targets, we are now supporting them with new initiatives, including electrification of gas fired equipment, and optimization of the central heating plant. 

We look forward to what the future has in store at UNBC, and continuing to provide our technical support to an industry leader in energy management.