Researchers will look at everything from recycling to electrical consumption
The City of Penticton will get a helping hand from UBC’s Okanagan campus to reach its goal of reducing corporate greenhouse gas emissions.
Prof. Keith Culver, the director of UBC’s Okanagan Sustainability Institute, connected City of Penticton staff with Prof. Rehan Sadiq and Assoc. Prof. Kasun Hewage from the university’s School of Engineering. Hewage and Culver recently presented to Penticton council a plan for UBC grad students to conduct energy reviews on city-owned buildings, and develop software to help the city improve overall energy consumption for all its properties.
In 2011, Penticton adopted its Corporate Climate Action Plan with the goal of reducing municipal greenhouse gas emissions 20 per cent by 2020. The plan also acknowledged that 56 per cent of the city's energy consumption and 62 per cent of the city’s greenhouse gas production comes directly from municipal buildings. UBC’s engineers, with a grant from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and matching grants from Fortis BC, and the City of Penticton, want to develop software that will help municipalities become more energy efficient.
Buildings considered for the Penticton study include the city’s arena, its 1960s-era city hall, the museum and library building, and the recently constructed community centre, which received silver certification as a green building by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Sadiq, principal investigator, and Hewage will employ UBC graduate research students for the study.
As they look at everyday energy usage and basics, such as heating and ventilation systems, Hewage says they will also examine the use of paper, pens, batteries, electronic appliances, and other consumable items that may end up in a landfill. It’s the use and final disposal of these items that will be taken into consideration when it comes to measuring the efficiency of each facility.
“We will do a full life-cycle analysis of the buildings,” says Hewage. “This is not a snap-shot, but a very thorough and comprehensive review of the energy consumed by these buildings and the carbon footprint they are making.”
Once the study is complete, the engineers will then prepare a computer software program designed specifically for Penticton so the city can do a similar analysis of the remaining municipally-operated buildings.
“The life-cycle asset management tool will be used to monitor and adjust building controls on an ongoing basis to maximize the city’s energy efficiency,” says Hewage. “Our ultimate goal is that this program will be adapted for other municipalities and become a mainstream tool used to conserve energy.”
Hewage says Penticton was the perfect target for this research as the city is mid-sized and has a combination of old municipal buildings, along with some new state-of-the-art facilities.
“Our presentation received unanimous approval by council and they have been very supportive of this idea,” Hewage adds. “This will be a three-year study and once we have done our review of the buildings, we will be able to give the city a full environmental impact—from beginning to end—of current use of these buildings.”
Penticton’s Acting Mayor Garry Litke says the ground-breaking partnership demonstrates UBC’s dedication to educating and training engineers locally and will help the city develop a tangible product that should help reduce energy consumption for years to come.
“The City of Penticton is pleased to partner with UBC to develop the needed tools to monitor and reduce energy consumption at municipal facilities,” Litke says. “Recent events show that climate change is upon us. It is important that we have the appropriate data to make informed decisions about how to adapt to these changes, and UBC is the missing link in meeting our Green House Gas goals sooner rather than later.”
Culver echoes Litke’s remarks, adding that “this collaboration demonstrates UBC’s commitment to engaging with communities up and down the valley, conducting world-leading research while applying knowledge to respond to local challenges.”
Partnerships between Okanagan communities and UBC also provide important experiential learning opportunities for students, Culver says, using the Okanagan valley “as a living lab for learning and for community benefit.”