City of Nanaimo gets a new energy-efficient (and safe) annex

Image of the City of Nanaimo's City Hall Annex building
Nanaimo's new City Hall annex is a replacement to an original building that required a seismic upgrade. An energy modeling study done in advance of construction proved that the building could be energy efficient even though it's 29 per cent larger than the one it replaced.

Building is a seismic upgrade that's bigger, yet more efficient

The City of Nanaimo's new City Hall annex — formally known as the Service and Resource Centre — is 29 per cent larger than its old annex, but uses 19 per cent less energy.

The new energy-efficient building will also be much safer in the event of an earthquake.

"The old annex building was built in 1937," says Bruce Joiner, manager of infrastructure planning and energy for the City of Nanaimo. "And it definitely did not meet today's seismic standards."

To bring the building up to code and make it safer, the city found that it would be more cost-effective to build new rather than to renovate.

With a new building, Nanaimo was able to take advantage of BC Hydro Power Smart's New Construction Program. The program provides funding for an energy-modeling study — a simulation of how a building might function throughout a year if it's designed and built with a variety of energy-saving measures.

The program also provides financial incentives for implementing such measures.

Energy study proves accurate in predicting energy-savings

"The energy modeling study was an interesting process. I was a little skeptical at first and wasn't convinced we could achieve all the savings the study said we could," said Joiner.

Joiner is among 150 employees who have been in the newly-constructed building for just over a year.

"The results we are seeing in the energy savings are pretty close to what was predicted in the energy study that was done for the building," he said. "It turned out to be pretty accurate."

The energy study, completed by Aaron Mullaley of Rocky Point Engineering Ltd., estimated that incorporating energy-saving measures in the new annex would save about 31 per cent over a comparable building constructed without those measures. That translates to electrical energy savings of 285,540 kilowatt hours a year, or about $25,000 on the city's energy bills.

"The energy modeling study helped to show how spending a little more upfront would lead to longer-term savings," says Mullaley, whose firm also handled the mechanical engineering for the project. "And it's a nice building, too. Very open and bright."

LED lighting, high-tech sensors and much more

Built to meet LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standards, the new building is three storeys high and 42,900 square feet, with an additional 10,100 square feet in parking. It houses the city's finance, planning, development, engineering and information technology departments.

All the lighting, inside and out, is energy efficient LEDs with high-tech sensors that not only turn lights on and off when someone enters or leaves a room, but also dim the lights when there is enough daylight coming in through the windows.

"Employees in the building really like the control they have over the lighting," says Joiner. "At first, they thought the LEDs were too bright, but then we showed them how they could dim them down. Now the lights are rarely running at full output, which saves a lot of energy."

Other energy-saving measures include:

  • A low-maintenance active chilled beam HVAC system served by a central heat recovery air-water heat pump with chilled and heating water piping distribution
  • Increased roof and wall insulation
  • High-performance window glazing
  • Overhangs on window casings to provide more shade
  • Solar domestic water heating
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures

Power Smart incentives result in faster payback

As a public body, responsible to its taxpayers, the City of Nanaimo is very aware of the importance of payback periods.

"Going as energy-efficient as we did raised the incremental costs in the initial stages of the project," says Joiner, of a building that cost $12 million. "But the Power Smart incentives to help cover those extra costs were crucial to bringing the payback period into an acceptable range of about eight years.

"Combined with the long-term, ongoing energy savings, we will come out ahead very quickly. Plus we have a great building."

Find out more about energy modeling and BC Hydro Power Smart's New Construction Program or call 1 866 522 4713.