Striving for more sustainable systems on campus

Recognition for sustainability achievements push university to aim high and keep emissions low

TRU’s Sustainability Office just behind the human resources building. (Jared MacArthur/The Omega)

TRU’s Sustainability Office just behind the human resources building. (Jared MacArthur/The Omega)

The Environment and Sustainability office here at TRU is currently working on the second draft of a new renewable energy concept that could reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by as much as 50 per cent.

Jim Gudjonson, TRU’s director of environment and sustainability, said that the Williams Lake campus is already using a biomass boiler to heat the campus, which is anticipated to reduce GHG emissions by 90 per cent.

The boiler on the Williams Lake campus will be monitored very closely this year and is being used as a pilot project to further develop the concept for a biomass boiler on TRU’s Kamloops campus.

Energy consumption here on campus and the use of clean, renewable energy have been on the forefront of the department’s planning for years now.

The push to become more sustainable lead to the development of the Strategic Sustainability Plan, which is currently guiding TRU’s Environment and Sustainability office through 2019. It helped the university in receiving the Rising STARS distinction from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), which recognizes TRU as a leading institution in sustainability.

In 2009, TRU conducted an internal audit to generate a baseline of all the energy consumption on campus. From that, they recognized about $1 million worth of energy saving projects that would see a quick return in savings, Gudjonson said.

Since then, new software has been upgraded around campus, faculty and staff offices have been issued energy efficient power bars and solar panels have been installed to help heat water for buildings on campus, according to the AASHE report.

“In the last year we have completely changed every lamp in the institution to go from fluorescent to LED, [which] added another $100,000 per year in cost savings,” Gudjonson said.

Gudjonson said the university has reduced energy consumption below the baseline taken in 2009 by 20 to 30 per cent, as well saving close to $400,000 in utility costs per year.

“Now that we’ve ratcheted down the use in all these buildings and squeezed all the energy savings out that we realistically can, we are now looking at cleaning up the supply of the energy… starting to concentrate on adding renewables to our portfolio,” Gudjonson said.

The biomass boiler, which is classified as a renewable energy source, will be fueled by wood pellets made from trees that have been killed by pine beetles throughout B.C., Gudjonson said.

If the boiler project goes forward, it will be implemented during the construction of the new $30 million Industrial Training and Technology Centre that was just approved last month and is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

Gudjonson says the building will hopefully be built in such a way that it will help to bring down GHG emissions on campus overall, noting that there will hopefully be a solar farm on the roof of the building in addition to the biomass boiler.

“Beyond designing a building to be net zero, which means it won’t take any energy from the grid, we are hoping to design this building to have a positive impact – what we refer to as ‘regenerative sustainability,’” Gudjonson said.

TRU is currently offsetting the use of non-renewable energy with the use of solar cells, set up on the Old Main building, Campus Activities Center and Culinary Arts building to heat water for the buildings. As well as purchasing 10 per cent of the universities gas supply through a FortisBC renewable energy program.

Although energy consumption is the main focus right now for the Environment and Sustainability Office at TRU, there are plans to set up meters and a record a baseline of the water consumption similar to the one done for energy in 2009, Gudjonson said.