Seniors housing provider turns to energy manager for savings

Image of Ken Harder of Retirement Concepts
Ken Harder of Retirement Concepts has a portion of his salary as energy manager paid by the Power Smart Partner Program.

Retirement Concepts saves more than 700,000 kilowatt hours a year

It's a common challenge facing property owners and managers today. How do you ensure tenants are safe, comfortable and happy enough to continue living or working in your units, without wasting precious operational dollars?

When your tenants are seniors – who require more warmth, more light and even greater safety measures – the challenge to your operational budget may seem insurmountable.

That's why Retirement Concepts recently turned to BC Hydro's Power Smart Partner Program to help them hire a dedicated energy manager. A family-owned provider of seniors housing for more than 3,000 older adults in 18 communities across B.C., the company includes independent living, assisted living and complex care units in the mix.

Tending the seedling

"I've been in the job four months," says energy manager Ken Harder, whose salary is paid in part by the Power Smart Partner Program, "and I can tell you that, while Retirement Concepts has been involved in working with BC Hydro since 2006 to install energy-efficient measures in all our new developments, now we are going flat out to find even more energy savings.

Harder said that when he was an energy manager with Toyota, he found that there was a limit to energy-saving opportunities at an industrial site.

"Here, with Retirement Concepts' many buildings, we can take advantage of what in Toyota language is called 'yoketen' – transplanting and tending the seedling," he says. "It's where we take what we learn in one building and carry on the savings in our other facilities."

Enough savings to power 71 B.C. homes

So far, upgrades to the company's 18 retirement residential complexes have included:

  • A switch from incandescent and halogen lamps to energy-efficient CFLs and LEDs in common areas;
  • A switch from energy-guzzling T12 fluorescents to energy-saving and long-lasting T8s throughout the parkades;
  • Installation of motion sensors and light controls to help minimize energy use in unoccupied areas.

The result: Retirement Concepts is currently saving more than 700,000 kilowatt hours a year, or enough to power nearly 71 B.C. households.

And that's just the beginning, says Harder.

senior and child'Kaizen': Continuous improvement

"Now that I am in place as a full-time energy manager," says Harder, "we've started to branch out to other projects beyond lighting and controls. Those were a great start, but now we need to reach for 'kaizen,' which means finding ways to keep changing for the better – continuous improvement, in other words."

To that end, Ken is pursuing a variety of new projects through the Power Smart Partner Express online application system – "I'm a big fan of PSPX," he says, "because the payback is short and we can get more projects done, more quickly" – and has now established an in-house Retirement Concepts Energy Team.

Made up of the professional maintenance managers who tend to the company's retirement residences, as well as 22 resident volunteers and the president of Retirement Concepts, the team "is a great way to get everyone involved in energy conservation," says Harder.

"Joe Moosa, our president, is very engaged and knowledgeable and very keen on energy savings. He sees energy conservation as key to both reducing operational costs and improving our facilities and making them better places to live.

"The volunteers will promote energy awareness in each facility among the other tenants and identify new ways to save within units as well as in the common areas."

Pleasing the residents

So far, residents in all the Retirement Concepts communities have been very pleased with the energy-efficiency upgrades they've seen.

"They've told us that the new lights look brighter and clearer," says Harder, "and that makes them feel safer, less likely to fall, etc. They also understand the value of energy efficiency to the bottom line: if we can save on our operational costs, it will help offset their rent increases."

More energy-efficient buildings will also, says Harder, "continue to attract more tenants not only because they are healthier and more comfortable, but because everyone today is aware of the need to have a lower environmental impact.

"Our tenants want to know that where they live is sustainable. If we're more attractive to tenants, it increases the value of our investment. And with BC Hydro's support through the Power Smart Partner Program, we are able to go much farther into creating high-performance living spaces."

About the Power Smart Partner Program

The Power Smart Partner Program is dedicated to helping commercial, government and institutional organizations that spend more than $200,000 a year on electricity integrate long-term energy management into their day-to-day operations.

The program includes tools – such as an Energy Study and an Energy Management Assessment – to identify your organization's energy-saving opportunities, support for a full-time Energy Manager, and financial incentives for implementing energy-efficiency projects.

To become a Power Smart Partner, contact your BC Hydro Key Account Manager or call 604 522 4713.