Energy-Efficiency in University Buildings: Interview with Richard Thorne

“Because we are a sales-based organization, we have been able to go to institutions that didn’t have the time and energy to apply for energy incentives and convert them to applicants.

“The University of Ottawa has been working with us for a long time. It’s a natural relationship for us. The institution’s mandate is to be as sustainable as possible. They have dedicated staff to support that. Having us help them make everything as easy as possible has maximized the savings. Mainly through incentive programs, we’ve helped the U of O save more than $1 million in funding over the last four years. Not only have we done large projects for them, we’ve been able to hoover up all the small projects – hundreds of programs for lighting and motors and variable speed drives.

“They have also had a green revolving fund for years. The University of Ottawa has expanded in size four times since mid-70s, and they’ve not increased their energy footprint one bit.

“It’s been a longer journey with some other institutions. They may have operations managers but sustainability is not their first mandate. We’ve been able to increase their participation from nothing, in Algonquin College’s case for example, to between $300,000 to $500,000, where they’d never have applied for anything without our assistance.

“What are we doing next? Proactive strategies involve a lot more work. For instance, when you do a large chiller project, replacing an inefficient chiller with a more efficient one, the M&V [measurement and verification] is relatively easy to attribute the savings to. The next level of savings that are more proactive are things like BAS [Building Automation Systems]. We might give them an incentive to run at certain hours. But the  BAS can be changed. How do you know six months down the road if the original settings are still in place? We offer a longer period of M&V – measured over a year – and we offer engineers who come in and help the customer determine the savings on a much more granular level.

“We are a highly regulated industry. We’re a monopoly. And we’re here to help people. We don’t stop people from converting to natural gas because part of our mandate is to reduce peak demand. Every time I give someone an incentive, I’m theoretically shooting myself in the foot. But our goal at the end of the day is conservation.”

This interview originally appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Building. The view the print edition, click here.

To view the accompanying article online, click here.

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