Energy reduction leads to STARS sustainability gold—again

- Melanie Groves

Adams with the heat recovery air handling unit on the roof of the McKinnon Building

The swimmers in the McKinnon Pool on a sunny Thursday afternoon probably don’t realize it, but the warm water they’re enjoying is—in a feat of engineering—heated by the air above them.

From his office laptop, UVic energy manager David Adams can log in to monitor the performance of the heat recovery air handling unit for the pool along with other campus buildings and systems.

“We look for ways to reduce energy consumption on campus, whether it’s electricity, natural gas or water,” says Adams. Like an energy sleuth with a laptop, Adams’ day-to-day work involves conducting feasibility studies, building audits and economic analyses to identify projects that will achieve the university’s sustainability goals, increasing efficiency while saving money over the long term.

The McKinnon heat recovery unit represents one of those opportunities. The silver rooftop boxes and piping network use dehumidification and heat pump technology to transfer energy from building exhaust air into heat for the swimming pool, leading to “huge energy savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” says Adams. “From this unit alone UVic is saving $25,000 in natural gas costs and reducing its CO2 emissions by more than 200 tonnes annually—the equivalent of taking 77 cars off the road.”

The McKinnon project is just one of many initiatives that have helped UVic achieve its second gold rating with the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). The 2017 score maintains UVic’s gold ranking, originally established in 2014, and makes it the second highest-rated university in Canada.

“I’m very proud that our campus-wide sustainability efforts have been recognized for the second time with this gold ranking,” says Gayle Gorrill, vice-president finance and operations. “We’ve made excellent progress toward the goals of our Sustainability Action Plan and this award demonstrates the commitment of our faculty, staff and students, who have embraced a culture of sustainability in teaching, research and operations.”

UVic’s STARS score of 76.79 improves on the 2014 total of 66.44, with high marks in the categories of grounds, purchasing, food and dining, waste diversion and water use, as well as building energy consumption.

“STARS is a comprehensive tool that shows us how the university is performing compared to other academic institutions in Canada,” says Mike Wilson, director of campus planning and sustainability. “In addition to our excellent performance in the air and climate category, UVic also garnered full marks for innovation due to unique campus programs such as the Staff Sustainability Network, Campus Sustainability Fund and Green Labs Program.”

A newly released UVic report, the 2016 Progress Report on the Sustainability Action Plan: Campus Operations 2014 – 2019, supports the STARS gold rating and reveals that the university has already met its current electricity and natural gas reduction targets, with steady progress toward the plan’s other goals.

Other recent sustainability projects include:

  • Improvements and upgrades to the UVic District Energy System that are expected to result in a 10 per cent reduction in campus natural gas consumption
  • Geothermal heating and cooling system in the CARSA Building
  • Demand control ventilation that detects when buildings are in use and automatically manages heat and light usage
  • Expansion of recycling program with three-bin sorting system

“I wanted to contribute by engineering solutions that reduce our impact to global climate change,” says Adams, a UVic alumnus with a master’s in clean air engineering. “The university is well on its way to meeting and exceeding our energy reduction targets, and beyond 2019 we’ll be looking at alternative energy sources and technologies so that we can shrink our carbon footprint even further.”

 By the numbers: 2015 compared to 2010

  • 100% new buildings constructed achieved LEED gold certification
  • 30% reduction in paper use
  • 27% lower greenhouse gas emissions
  • 19% lower natural gas consumption intensity
  • 17% lower water consumption
  • 9% lower electricity consumption intensity


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Keywords: clean energy, environment, STARS, sustainability, award, administrative

People: David Adams

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