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The Next Course project to deliver a sustainable restaurant

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O'Doul's Restaurant and Bar in downtown Vancouver closed its doors for renovations on June 2. But these are no ordinary renos — when it reopens, O'Doul's will be a sustainability superstar.

Located in the Listel Hotel near Robson and Jervis streets, the restaurant is getting an energy-efficiency and sustainability overhaul via a joint project between BC Hydro and a variety of other partners.

The Next Course: Serving up a More Sustainable Future project is designed to showcase state-of-the-art equipment and practices and compel others in B.C. to follow. And it's expected to have a huge impact.

The restaurant, food, and entertainment sector in B.C. represents an estimated 2,700 gigawatt hours of electricity consumption annually. BC Hydro estimates the conservation potential up to one-third of that — which means if businesses get on board, it could result in enough savings to power up to 81,000 homes.

"We want to encourage a behavioural shift in the sector," says Irfan Rehmanji, a technology innovation manager at BC Hydro. "This project builds on the successes of projects completed by our partners down south, mainly Southern California Edison.

"They're ahead of the game in terms of engaging the restaurant sector and they've done several similar projects. We thought we'd try and replicate their success up here in B.C."

Seeking ways to save energy, improve restaurant operations

Next Course is a joint project between BC Hydro and partners including the Green Table Network, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas (through LiveSmart); the Food Service Technology Center, various kitchen appliance vendors; and O'Doul's Restaurant/the Listel Hotel.

"It's designed to demonstrate advanced sustainability, including electricity, natural gas, and food and materials waste," says Rehmanji. "The idea is to show that advanced measures not only save energy, but are also an opportunity to improve operations."

Restaurants offer huge energy savings potential

The energy savings potential of the restaurant, food and entertainment sector is significant. But there are major challenges in the sector, including tight thresholds for return on investments, and a lack of downtime to source the best options when equipment needs replacing.

Despite the achievements of some leading-edge restaurants, there is more that the sector overall can do to adopt energy-efficient behaviours and equipment, and The Next Course project hopes to change that.

"This industry is very competitive," says Rehmanji. "Peer-to-peer recognition is one of the best tools available. If one of the restaurants or entertainment establishments is doing something, and it's working, everybody else is going to follow."

Restaurant suppliers, designers can help, too

Restaurants aren't the only group targeted by the project.

"We're also trying to influence restaurant suppliers, as well as interior designers and the kitchen or restaurant designers that get the contracts [to renovate]," says Rehmanji. "The template designs they use to quickly do restaurant renovations typically don't explore all the energy efficiency options or integrated design methodologies."

In addition to demonstrating the potential of sustainable design to the industry, the partners hope the project will also stimulate consumer demand through promotion and education.

What changes are on the menu?

The project partners assessed O'Doul's previous layout, appliances and practices. Now, they're pooling their expertise to complete the upgrade.

Rehmanji says that the kitchen layout will remain the same however in-efficient and energy-intensive appliances will be upgraded, such as the cook range and the fry stations.

The redesign will also include the installation of a new induction stove range and an upgraded walk-in refrigerator and freezer.

While some features, such as lighting in the main seating area, will be totally replaced with more efficient technologies, others, such as heating and ventilation system (HVAC), may only require upgrades to certain components.

"We identified distinct opportunities for efficiency without having to completely replace the entire HVAC system," says Rehmanji. "For example, the ventilation system within the kitchen, the exhaust fan, is going to be demand-control instead of running flat out whenever the restaurant is in operation."

For a more detailed look at the O'Doul's renovations, check out the videos on The Next Course on the O'Doul's website.

Read how other B.C. restaurants are taking on energy efficiency: