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Reducing energy use an ongoing effort

The following article is the first in a monthly series focused on the work by Queen’s and Physical Plant Services to reduce energy consumption by the university. 

[Nathan Splinter]
Energy managment at Queen’s has been an ongoing effort for more than 20 years. Currently, Energy Manager Nathan Splinter is leading the effort to reduce energy comsumption at the university. (University Communications)

Each year Queen’s University spends about $18 million to $20 million on utilities, electricity prime among them.

Finding any way to reduce the final bill has a significant impact. Add to that the fact that most energy saving measures also reduce the environmental impact of the university, and it’s a win-win.

“Energy management has been a focus for Physical Plant Services (PPS) at Queen’s for more than 20 years”, explains Nathan Splinter, Energy Manager. 

However, with the cost of utilities climbing, there is more of an emphasis on the effort than ever.

Looking at it from an infrastructure angle, Queen’s is a massive, multifaceted facility, stretching over multiple campuses with a mix of buildings from cutting-edge modern to classic Victorian. Not surprisingly, PPS has a wide range of projects on the go, but all support a common theme – reducing the amount of energy that Queen’s uses. 

With new buildings this effort starts at the planning stage, Mr. Splinter says.

“We’ve engrained energy management into our building standards,” he says. “Queen’s has a set of building standards that incorporate an energy focus and that has enabled  the establishment of a good energy management reference point for buildings. The results can be seen in some of the university’s recent buildings including the School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences and Goodes Hall, which achieved Leadership in Energy and Engineering Design (LEED) recognition. The Integrated Learning Centre also received similar recognition with the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification.”

These new buildings are at the pinnacle of energy efficiency while some other existing buildings require retrofitting. 

A good example of this retrofit type of work occurred in Innovation Park recently. Mr. Splinter points out that $2.5 million was invested in upgrading the infrastructure of the sprawling building, including replacing all the lighting and chillers, resulting in reduced energy consumption. 

Lab ventilation was also improved by installing six high-plume exhaust fans, replacing 80 small independent stacks, resulting in better air quality and energy conservation.

Water consumption was another focus. 

“We reduced the water consumption from and 100-150 cubic meters a day to an average of about 5 cubic meters,” Mr. Splinter says. “This resulted in substantial cost savings for the facility.”

Each project requires a significant investment and the best technologies tend to be more expensive. However, by taking advantage of available incentives and grants the initial cost is reduced.  The savings on utility charges then pay for the initial expenditure in periods as short as four or five years.

“An average lighting project sees a 40 per cent to 60 per cent reduction in the electrical demand which is phenomenal,” Mr. Splinter says. “That’s the rationale for doing those type of projects. It’s a pretty exciting time. There are a lot of provincial grants to incentivize this type of work that we have been successful in securing.” 

To date Queen’s has received over $200,000 in grants to support energy conservation projects on campus.

Looking ahead, PPS is planning to introduce a new metering system that will allow them and the Queen’s community to monitor consumption for electricity, water, steam and natural gas in real time, providing valuable data immediately rather than waiting for the typical monthly reading.

“It’s essential to have enough data to do proper research and know what’s happening within our buildings,” Mr. Splinter says. “The metering project is really exciting and what we want to do as part of the project is create a public-facing dashboard so people can go online and see what they are currently consuming for water or what they are using for electricity.”

The end result will hopefully be greater awareness and knowledge about energy management, and that excites Mr. Splinter.