BUILDINGS - Smarter Facilities Management


Exemplifying Energy Management: Meeting Massive Goals

Energy management is a continuous operations effort at this Canadian facility

By Christopher Curtland

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    The Earth Rangers Centre in Woodbridge, Ontario, (left) uses a variety of systems and strategies to achieve annual energy reduction. A green view engulfs the organization.
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    Andy Schonberger, director of the Earth Rangers Centre, works for an organization dedicated to sustainability – and his job description mandates continuous energy savings. With a B.S. in mechanical engineering and an M.B.A, he is also a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Energy Manager.

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    Brett Sverkas, facility manager of the Earth Rangers Centre, writes his own scripts for mobile apps to constantly monitor the building’s performance. He is a Mechanical Engineering Technologist and a Building Science Specialist with nine years’ experience in various industry roles.

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    Energy meters measure the usage of specific building systems, as opposed to only displaying overall consumption like a utility bill.

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    Earth tubes cut energy use by harnessing the ground’s near constant subterranean temperature to provide efficient heating or cooling.

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    The geoexchange system provides thermal energy for space heating and acts as a heat sink for cooling needs. To condition the building, ground source heat pumps turn the ground under the parking lot into a kind of thermal battery that is either charged during summer or discharged during winter.

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    This dashboard is one example of what Schonberger references each morning to analyze energy consumption by system. It includes total solar output and the overall cost of energy. The hardware and software for energy metering at Earth Rangers Centre was donated by Schneider Electric.
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    The Earth Rangers Centre incorporates green roofs into its overall sustainability scheme. Also included are bioswales, interlocking porous pavers, and non-potable water storage.
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    A 57.6 kW solar array was installed when the facility was being renovated to accommodate more on-site parking. It produces up to 85,000 kWh per year, accounting for about 20% of the building’s electricity consumption.

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When Andy Schonberger, director of the Earth Rangers Centre in Woodbridge, Ontario, arrives in the morning, he grabs a cup of coffee, flips on his computer, and begins analyzing a breakdown of the building’s energy performance. He’s constantly checking its pulse, looking for areas of improvement.

When his counterpart Brett Sverkas, the facility manager, gets in, he mans the back end of a communications hub he implemented, where occupants can anonymously report complaints or concerns via Google Docs. He’s continuously gauging the goings-on, wondering where performance can get better.

Some buildings are simply left humming along after having earned some mark of energy certification. But this ho-hum approach won’t suffice for these building managers.

For them, being efficient and sustainable isn’t just a nice distinction in the community or a plaque on the wall. It’s their job.

“One of the performance metrics in my review is to decrease energy consumption every single year,” Schonberger explains. “That’s a constant challenge for sure.”

From Baseline to Top of the Line
Occupied in 2004, the Earth Rangers Centre – which houses a non-profit organization dedicated to biodiversity and sustainability – employed several green strategies from the onset. “It had a very heavy concrete thermal mass, radiant heating and cooling, heat recovery on air handling, earth tubes, and a PV-ready roof,” says Schonberger. “It was pretty well-equipped as a base building.”

Part of the building’s initial $22 million price tag entailed making it ready for the future, as the organization and its goals grew, Schonberger explains. Upon completion, the Earth Rangers Centre earned LEED Gold certification for new construction.

“As we learned how to operate the building, we kept finding ways to cut energy consumption, reduce our environmental impact, and also decrease costs,” says Schonberger. “After making several ongoing improvements, we wanted credit for that.”

Their previous recognition only served as motivation. “Getting gold for new construction was great, but we wanted credit for performing operations in the same manner,” Schonberger explains. “We wanted that platinum plaque for existing buildings.”

Their first step was enlisting consulting firms MCW Custom Energy Solutions and Ecovert Sustainability Consultants. On their advice, the center underwent an in-depth, ASHRAE Level II energy audit in 2009.

Motivated by the organization’s desire to ultimately achieve carbon neutrality and earn every LEED point possible, Schonberger and Sverkas asked their consultants an open-ended question: “What would you do to this building if it were a blank sheet of paper?”

They poked and prodded every building system. “They even looked at waste heat off one of our refrigerators,” adds Schonberger. “Then they were able to prioritize what is the best bang for our energy buck.”

Schonberger and Sverkas wound up with a prioritized “grocery list” of items to consider. At the top of that list was energy metering.

“They identified that our existing building automation system didn’t have the muscle for what we wanted to do,” says Schonberger.

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