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Real-world learning, real-world impact

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

[Connor Reed]
Connor Reed (Sc’18) is gaining experience in energy management at Physical Plant Services through the Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program (QUIP). (University Communications)

When Connor Reed (Sc’18) started his internship at Physical Plant Services, he was amazed by how involved energy management is in the day-to-day business of Queen’s University.

Building standards and specifications, utility management, lighting design, utility costs and forecasting, water and mechanical systems. Over the past nine months he has been involved in projects in each of these areas and more. 

“The amount of detail that goes into lighting and lighting design, I heard 10 new terms each day in the first weeks,” he says of one of his first projects. “Lumens and CRIs and efficiencies… it was 100 per cent learning from the beginning and it continues to be every day.”

Mr. Reed is the fourth student to work with the Energy Management team, and the first intern through the Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program (QUIP), which provides second- and third-year students with a 12-16 month paid work experience at a partner employer.

The students who work with PPS are key contributors to the energy management efforts at Queen’s and gain real-world experiences that they can carry into their future careers.

They are directly involved in the process.

“The students integrate into our team and take on very complex and important projects,” says Nathan Splinter, Energy Manager, adding that the interns enable the university to push bigger projects forward. “The feedback that we’ve received from the students is that they really enjoy the fact that they are working on things that actually develop into real world projects – construction projects, and changes to how the university functions or operates.”

Mr. Reed agrees. He knows how valuable the learning experience is and that he is making a real contribution to the ongoing energy management effort at Queen’s.

“It is a lot easier to do your job and be effective when you know that what you’re doing has impact,” he says.

Over the past nine months, Mr. Reed has been involved in a number of projects, such as the design work and specifications for the installation of new condensate meters in 35 major buildings on campus. Condensate is water that has condensed back into a liquid after steam has given up its energy to heat the building. The new meters can be monitored in real time and will allow PPS to identify leaks and mechanical malfunctions as soon as they occur.

During this past summer he also was involved in the decision-making process for Electricity Demand Response Days when air conditioning is shut down in many buildings on campus to reduce the university’s electricity demand. 

This included analyzing results from previous years to estimate the financial impact of demand reduction during the summer. Mr. Reed and Mr. Splinter both monitored weather conditions and provincial electricity demand forecasts on a daily basis to help decide whether or not to reduce air conditioning loads. Missing a single ‘peak’ day could have a financial impact of $750,000 or more. Mr. Reed was also responsible for communicating the process to internal and external staff and, as a result, developed more effective communications and presentation skills.

Mr. Reed says he has found it very rewarding to be part of a team that is supportive and effective. He is impressed by the professionalism of the people he works with in PPS and campus partners such as Procurement Services.

It’s something that Mr. Splinter has seen with each of the internships.

“The students are contributing and learning from others, gaining hands-on experience as well a new skill set and a broad-based knowledge,” he says. “The internship here gives the students the opportunity to taste a little bit of some different options and different fields and understand potentially a little more what’s out there, and what different jobs entail.”