Green technology echoes in the walls of academia

Ontario‘s colleges leading the way in adopting energy-efficient technology

Many people believe the answers to climate change will emerge from within the walls of academia. But few people realize the innovative technologies already being integrated behind those very walls. Ontario’s colleges are leading the way in adopting new technologies to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption, as well as drastically cutting operating costs.

Recently, two of southern Ontario’s largest colleges have completed extensive energy retrofit projects. In May, Centennial College completed an extensive energy retrofit project at four of its campuses, and Humber College completed the installation of a state of the art chiller system at its North Campus in early July. As early adopters of the latest advancements in green technology, Centennial and Humber College are helping to demonstrate the immediate benefits these technologies produce, not only to energy conservation, but also to the school’s bottom line.

Publicly funded institutions like Centennial and Humber College must manage resources carefully and ensure facilities are operating as efficiently and as environmentally responsible as possible. With energy prices fluctuating and the possibility of significant increases at any time, there is increased pressure on institutions to reduce the risk of unanticipated future costs.

The City of Toronto’s Better Buildings Partnership was consulted on both projects to help provide Centennial and Humber College access to the energy savings incentives, enabling the colleges to do more with retrofit budgets, ultimately allowing for a more immediate return on investment.

Getting Started

Centennial College started the process of upgrading its facilities with a complete energy audit in 2004. Through the energy audit, the College identified several opportunities for improvement that would result in substantial cost savings. Centennial seized the opportunity to complete a number of projects such as: 

  • Retrofitting existing T-12 lighting to more energy efficient T-8 technology without sacrificing lighting levels, replacing 4,278 fixtures (mostly HID and incandescent) with higher efficiency alternative fixtures in three campuses and one residence.
  • Introduced ultrasonic occupancy sensors at three sites.
  • At the Progress Avenue Campus, converted the fan system to variable frequency drives to better match fan operation to air quality and comfort needs, and replaced the electric hot water heater with a high-efficiency natural gas boiler.
  • Fine-tuned existing building automation systems to optimize efficiency of new measures.
  • Installed capacitor banks to improve power factor at all buildings.

Tyrone Gangoo, Manager, Plant Services, Facilities & Services, Centennial College points out, “We have an annual budget of approximately $2 million and we expect to see savings of about 10 per cent annually from all the implemented improvements, lowering the payback period to just 3.1 years.”

The energy efficient upgrades to Centennial College’s facilities resulted in 1,433,608 kWh of annual electricity savings, and 19,598 m3 of annual natural gas savings. These reductions translate into an annual cost savings of $196,055. The payback period of 3.1 years was accomplished with the assistance of a $129,201 incentive received from the Better Buildings Partnership and an $11,951 incentive from Enbridge.

“We’ve reduced our environmental footprint by 1,441 tonnes of CO2 annually – that’s the equivalent of taking 424 cars off the road,” added Gangoo.

Cooling climate change one chiller at a time

As a long time proponent against climate change, Humber College sought to reduce the carbon footprint of its North Campus and minimize energy operating costs through investment in infrastructure technologies.

With the help of S.A. Armstrong LTD., Humber College developed a $3 million program that would see the replacement of the 35-year old chiller system in the North Campus with an innovative system called the Hartman Loop, the first of its kind in Canada.

The system uses three new 550-ton chillers in conjunction with integrated plant control technology that is 50 per cent more efficient than the College’s two former chillers that ran on harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).  The installation of the Hartman Loop will reduce energy consumption during periods of decreased occupancy, and enable cooling earlier and later in the spring and the fall.

“The existing chiller system was a drain on the environment and our facilities were in serious need of an upgrade,” said Carol Anderson, Director of Facilities, Humber College. “By replacing the two existing chiller units with the Hartman Loop system, we will reduce our environmental footprint by 260 tonnes of CO2 annually – that’s the equivalent of taking 79 homes off the grid.”

The installation of the Hartman Loop system saw a drastic reduction of the annual electricity consumption at Humber College’s North Campus by 670,000 kWh, which is expected to trim utility bills annually by $104,000, annually. According to Anderson, “Humber College has succeeded in reaching a new standard in fiscal and environmental responsibility with the installation of the Hartman Loop technology.”

Walking the walk

In being early adopters of these new technologies, Centennial and Humber College have shown the positive impact that investments in infrastructure upgrades can have on large public institutions. The opportunities for organizations to implement these types of programs are endless. More companies are developing energy-efficient technologies, and there are numerous incentive programs to help offset the construction costs. The result is that the return on investment for energy-efficient retrofits is becoming more immediate, while the risk in adopting new technologies is quickly evaporating.

Educational facilities around the world are tirelessly working to answer the question of climate change, and teach their students these new technologies. Leading by example, Centennial College and Humber College are examples of institutions taking the next step by adopting new green technologies. By making investments in infrastructure, organizations have the opportunity to benefit not only their immediate stakeholders through lowered operating costs, but also the larger communities.

Victor da Rosa is Project Manager at the City of Toronto’s Energy Efficiency Office, and responsible for providing Energy Services, BBP Incentive and Sustainable Energy Funds program support to the Academic Sector. Victor can be contacted at [email protected] or 416-392-7003

For more information on the Better Buildings Partnership, visit

You might also like