August 7-14, 2006

York U retrofit project aims to cut energy use by 20%, save $5.6M in annual costs

York University, in Toronto, has embarked on an aggressive plan to reduce overall energy consumption at the Keele and Glendon campuses by 20%. The Energy Sustainability and Building Efficiency (ESBE) program will cost an estimated $42 million and is projected to yield energy cost savings of $5.6 million annually.

The university's facilities services department, which manages all the university's buildings and their heating, cooling, and electrical systems, has contracted Toronto-based MCW Custom Energy Solutions to implement the ESBE program. It involves reviewing the energy efficiency of each of York's 100 buildings and undertaking minor and major upgrades to most of them by 2009, the year of the university's 50th anniversary. MCW calls the project the largest Canadian university retrofit to date, covering a total of 7.5 million square feet in 85 facilities.

Many of the buildings at the Keele campus in northwestern Toronto date from the 1960s and 1970s, and those at the smaller, midtown Glendon campus are even older. The existing mechanical systems in all of them, however, are much less efficient than those now available.

Straightforward initiatives, such as replacing inefficient lighting, will yield immediate paybacks to the university. The more complex projects in the program, including a plan to replace the air delivery system in the Ross building, the centrepiece structure of the Keele campus, will generate larger, multi-year paybacks.

The implementation program will include:

-steam heating expansion/absorption cooling campus-wide for long-term cost avoidance and environmental benefits;

-lighting retrofit for efficiency and design improvement;

-energy management control systems for ease of systems control and monitoring;

-cooling extension and conversion to avoid additional equipment costs;

-systems recommissioning for operations and maintenance upgrading;

-operator training for energy and new technology awareness and staff/student workshops; and

-sustained systems monitoring for guaranteed energy savings.

The ESBE program builds on York's commitment to the use of energy-efficient building technologies, demonstrated in a series of recent construction projects. The computer science building, for example, won World Architecture magazine's 2002 Green Building of the Year Award for its use of energy efficient technology, including a green roof. The building reduces energy consumption by the equivalent of one barrel of oil per occupant per year compared to traditional building designs. York's technology-enhanced learning (TEL) building is designed to optimize natural lighting and uses an energy-efficient structure that reduces energy consumption by 25% over traditional building designs. Similar advances in energy efficiency have been incorporated into the university's Pond Road residence and accolade buildings.

Increasing the energy efficiency of the campus facilities will not only eliminate the challenges facilities services staff currently face in trying to keep some of the outdated, inefficient mechanical systems functioning properly, it will maintain York's indoor environmental quality at a level conducive to learning, teaching, research, and day-to-day work at the university.

Source: York University Alumni Matters, July 2006

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