When it comes to commitment to energy conservation,
Lakehead University is a model for North American public institutions.
Faced with aging facilities and limited-capital restoration budgets,
Thunder Bay, Ont.-based Lakehead University parlayed guaranteed
energy savings into a vital source of campus renewal.
Over the course of a two-phase, $23.3-million energy-performance
contract with Johnson Controls Inc.—which offers products
and services that optimize energy use and improve comfort and security—Lakehead
decreased its deferred maintenance liability by more than $20 million.
This decrease was achieved through a reduction in electrical consumption
on existing buildings by a dramatic 23 percent, and a cut in gas
consumption by a stunning 43 percent. With its sleeping giant of
deferred maintenance placated, Lakehead University will continue
to make the effort to achieve a sustainable campus.
Lakehead University’s individual success should not diminish
a vital fact that conservation is a collaborative effort. Peter
Love, chief conservation officer for the province of Ontario, visited
Lakehead in January with the purpose of recognizing the university’s
energy-conservation achievements; namely, the reduction of electrical
consumption by more than 10 percent on existing buildings twice
since 2004. However, Love quickly realized that Lakehead University’s
massive energy-efficiency effort was not done in a vacuum. He observed
that while Lakehead is now at the vanguard of energy efficiency,
the campus needed the support of an expert energy-efficiency partner
capable of manifesting the university’s will into a financially
feasible possibility—and to assist in this was Johnson Controls.
Steps Toward Sustainability
In 2002, when Michael Pawlowski became the new vice president of
administration and finance at Lakehead University, he realized the
status quo would no longer be acceptable. Physical plant officials
had identified $44 million in needed infrastructure improvements,
but the capital funds were not available. Dr. Frederick F. Gilbert,
president of Lakehead University, recognized that Lakehead was “literally
at risk, in terms of being able to maintain the work environment.”
At the top of the deferred maintenance list was the outdated and
inefficient steam-powered central plant. Its 35-year-old chillers
were near the breaking point, full of CFC-emitting R-11 refrigerant.
Lakehead’s lighting systems were using original technology
and configurations, demanding significantly more electricity than
newer lighting systems. In an effort to renew this educational northern
light, and to tackle its sleeping giant of deferred maintenance,
Lakehead University enlisted the help of Johnson Controls to reinvigorate
the 41-building campus environment.
Lakehead officials were impressed with the Johnson Controls method
of collaboratively examining the university’s needs and developing
a long-term solution. Together, they established a partnership to
tackle $12.3 million of the deferred maintenance backlog. The initial
project tackled two areas requiring immediate attention. First,
Lakehead University chose to replace the steam-generation and distribution
system with hot-water heating equipment in combination with a heat-recovery
circuit and upgrading the chilled-water system. Second, high-priority
HVAC measures in three campus buildings were implemented including
lighting retrofits, improved occupancy controls, and the installation
of variable speed drives and building automation to reduce the utility
demand at each building.
Innovation was also a key driver of the project. For example, Lakehead
University now uses fiberglass reinforced piping (FRP) within its
HVAC tunnels to distribute its hot-water heating. The benefits of
using FRP made the changeover from steam to hot-water heating economically
feasible. While FRP is more expensive than conventional metal piping,
it is lighter and could be easily transported through the tight
spaces of the existing steam-distribution tunnels. FRP is also joined
with glue; it is not welded. Had Lakehead chosen to use conventional
metal pipe, then either an alternative piping route would have had
to be prepared to install and weld the pipe, or the existing tunnels
would have had to be extensively ventilated to exhaust welding gases.
Either of these choices would have caused considerable disruption
on campus, and reduced the economic viability of the project.
James Podd, Lakehead’s physical plant director, said Johnson
Controls’ comprehensive approach enabled the university to
“look at things we normally wouldn’t do, or even consider,”
such as completely decommissioning the central plant, while switching
from steam heating to a highly efficient hot-water heating and distribution
system. Standalone hot-water plants were installed in remote buildings
where it made sense. The Phase I project also included replacing
the university’s aging central plant chillers. In all, these
improvements will generate minimum annual savings of $830,000, performance
fully guaranteed by Johnson Controls.
The initial phase of work was completed in less than one year, at
which point the University Board immediately gave the go-ahead for
another $11 million worth of improvements. In Phase II, lighting
systems were replaced and updated, and asbestos-abatement programs
were conducted across the campus. When completed in June, Phase
II will produce an additional $640,000 in annual energy savings,
which Lakehead has earmarked for developing increased accessibility
to its growing campus. Gilbert was keen to utilize savings generated
from the second phase “to generate sufficient fiscal resources
to put a new entrance into the university to develop the ring road
for traffic circulation.” The new entrance and ring road have
since been built and will be fully completed in the spring.
Lasting Financial and Environmental Benefits
The benefits of Lakehead University’s energy-efficiency program
are far-reaching. Since beginning the project in June 2004, total
measured savings are $1,643,761. The total savings guaranteed for
that period was $862,000; therefore, achieved savings have exceeded
the guarantee by $782,000, or nearly 91 percent. As Hugh Briggs,
Lakehead University’s manager of energy systems, noted in
May, while Johnson Controls has “met the savings guarantee,
we have added five new buildings, and there is still a surplus in
the utility budget at year-end. The measures are working.”
There are important environmental benefits that have accompanied
the savings as well. After the completion of Phase II, Lakehead
University will generate 5,600 fewer tonnes of greenhouse gases
(GHGs). The 5,600-tonne reduction in GHG emissions represents a
17-percent decline from 2002 emissions, far ahead of the six-percent
requirement of the Kyoto Accord. Asbestos insulation and fire proofing
has been removed from several of the campus buildings, and the university’s
new chillers are CFC-free.
Most importantly, Lakehead continues to be ahead of the energy-efficiency
curve. While its peers act to meet the Ontario Conservation Bureau’s
new “10 percent by 2007” demand-reduction challenge,
Lakehead has achieved reductions on existing buildings of 13 percent
in 2005 and an additional 11 percent in 2006.
When Love recognized Lakehead University’s achievements in
January, the university did not see it as a conclusion of its efforts.
Instead, the recognition is an acknowledgement of Lakehead’s
leadership in its journey toward sustainable campuses—a journey
that Lakehead envisioned taking in 2004 when it first began its
energy-efficiency project. From the outset, Lakehead engaged Johnson
Controls to provide full-time, on-site support through a long-term
service agreement. Johnson Controls maintains a local presence in
Thunder Bay through an authorized building services arrangement
with Thermal Mechanical Systems, a reputable local contractor that
will keep the new equipment operating in peak condition and allow
Lakehead to sustain its hard-fought energy savings.
With the “sleeping giant” of deferred maintenance well
under control, Lakehead University is now better positioned than
ever to provide the best in education and scholarly research for
Northwestern Ontario and beyond.
Gilbert is especially proud of the university’s accomplishments.
“Years of significant underfunding, combined with our location
away from the large urban centers of the south, have compelled us
to be more efficient, more effective and more creative,” he
said. “Lakehead’s motto, ‘Achievement Through
Effort,’ reflects the essence of this drive and visionary
Brad Gallant works for Johnson Controls covering Lakehead University
and the Central Canadian higher-education market.