Thompson Rivers University proves that a university can pursue an aggressive growth plan while limiting its environmental impact
When it comes to operating a university campus, there are many essential aspects to consider. Not only do universities need students, instructors, and curriculums, they require a functional environment to facilitate meaningful interactions between them—not to mention the amenities to host all activities appropriately. Common space, computer labs, cafeterias—universities demand structures and services to accommodate so many people, especially in a way that enhances the student experience. A tall task no doubt. But with the right plan, it’s attainable.
In 2013, Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in British Columbia embarked on a yearlong, broad consultative campus master planning exercise. Since Stantec helped develop their campus master plan in 2003, it only seemed fitting that TRU would bring us back 10 years later for the next decade worth of planning.
Stantec has been working with Thompson Rivers University on campus master planning since 2003. “While we have made significant progress toward reducing our GHG emissions, further reductions and strategies are needed to offset continued development. We hope the low carbon electrification study, currently underway with Stantec, will help us achieve our GHG emissions reduction targets while maintaining long term energy requirements.” – Jim Gudjonson, Director of Facilities at TRU (Photo: Stantec and Diamond Schmitt Architects)
The aim of the 2013 Campus Development Plan? To reflect on and build off our previous plan in order to shape the best approach heading forward. As TRU has been experiencing rapid growth for years, the new strategy would account for future development as tied to the new academic plan, research plan, and enrollment growth. They prioritized five goals that focused on:
- Student success
- Intercultural understanding
- Research capacity
- Entrepreneurial capacity
Clearly, sustainability was top of mind during the planning phase. It was the driving force behind one of TRU’s top challenges: how could the University continue to facilitate aggressive growth without watching their energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rise along with the population?
_q_tweetable:Since Stantec helped develop their campus master plan in 2003, it only seemed fitting that TRU would bring us back 10 years later for the next decade worth of planning._q_
Reducing energy, reducing GHG emissions
To solve the sustainability challenge, TRU commissioned Stantec to complete a district energy feasibility study. The aim? To understand the intricacies of the campus and explore how to effectively—and efficiently—manage energy use. The study revealed that it would be cost prohibitive to retroactively design and build a district energy system for the campus. The paybacks just weren’t there. While that wasn’t necessarily a surprise, it did leave us wondering how we could make an impactful change to GHGs and reduce energy consumption across campus.
The TRU energy reduction target for the first three years of the plan (2013-2016) was to achieve an additional 14% of energy savings. That way, TRU could account for a total energy reduction by 25% from 2010. But how? By reducing energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and operating costs through a comprehensive energy management program.
We would implement and improve upon:
- Operating and maintenance practices
- Instituting “green” purchasing policies
- Incorporating energy efficiency into all new building systems
- Utilizing an effective monitoring and reporting system
Additionally, TRU committed to implementing an effective behavioral change management program to reinforce the plan.
Campus growth without increasing GHGs
Since 2009, the campus’ building area has increased by about 20% (approximately 200,000 square feet). While the University continues to grow, TRU has reduced consumption by 50% as measured by equivalent kilowatt hours (ekWH) through the energy management program. Accordingly, GHG emissions have dropped by almost 60%. Check out the graph below:
With the energy management program (green line), the amount of energy use goes down from 2015-2017 while the buildings area remains the same.
So, what does this data tell us? Well, by contrast you can see that TRUs energy use without an energy management program (blue line) would have increased with additions of building area over time. With the energy management program (green line), however, the amount of energy use goes down from 2015-2017 while the buildings area remains the same.
Looking closely, you’ll notice a slight uptick in energy use in 2018, but that figure accounts for the commissioning of the new Industrial Training & Technology Centre (ITTC) online. The ITTC is inherently energy intensive, given the nature of the activities within it, but overall TRU has still managed to reduce GHGs. This, in part, was thanks to one key decision.
The ITTC was originally designed to accommodate a bio-mass boiler. But due to bylaws and local sensitivities related to air quality, TRU opted for an electric boiler. Working with BC Hydro, we implemented an electric boiler solution that would allow us to achieve significant GHG reductions. This came at a financial cost from an operating perspective, but it was a worthwhile investment given the expected reduction in GHGs.
Thompson Rivers University is utilizing a variety of approaches to reduce its carbon impact. Ranging from sewage heat recovery and micro turbines to solar photovoltaic and heat pumps, decarbonization is the name of the game. (Photo: Stantec and Diamond Schmitt Architects)
So where are we headed? Well, TRU’s next new building—the Nursing and Health Sciences building— is currently under construction. An integrated Stantec design, the facility will have several sustainable features, including a high-efficiency envelope, heat recovery chiller to “move” waste heat around the building, E-boilers for peak heating, demand-control ventilation, and a dual-core heat recovery system. Our current models are estimating this project to be up to 60% more efficient than industry standards.
Looking further into the future, our team is excited to be champions of providing this service. As post-secondary school becomes more prominent and more expensive, we must find ways to reduce costs and harmful GHG emissions. Ultimately, we hope to take our experience at TRU and demonstrate how we can implement these practices at other universities.
For now, we’ve extended our partnership with TRU to understand how we can “electrify” the campus. Ranging from sewage heat recovery and micro turbines to solar photovoltaic and heat pumps, decarbonization is the name of the game. Our mission? Lay down TRU’s roadmap for reaching a carbon-neutral future—a future that’s nearly here.
About the AuthorMore Content by Diego Mandelbaum