Shape Properties gets energy savings and more from chiller upgrade

Working on the efficiency project included team members from: Shape Property Management, Lougheed Town Centre and Trane Canada ULC.
Working on the efficiency project were, left to right: Oskar Kwieton, Shape Property Management director of facilities, operations and maintenance; Ralph Schuette, Lougheed Town Centre operations manager; Antonio Oxida, building operator; Doug Robertson and Barry Waterman from Trane Canada ULC.

After one year, the chiller system was saving 596,000 kWh of energy annually

Energy efficient upgrades don't just help save money. They also create an opportunity to tackle diverse operational issues. That's how Vancouver-based developer and owner-operator Shape Properties approached a chiller system upgrade at one of its venues.

Cooling system was inefficient — and ineffective

"Lougheed Town Centre was built up over several phases, and when they added a section, they had to add an additional chiller," says Oskar Kwieton, Shape's director of facilities, operations and maintenance.

The piecemeal expansion of the popular Burnaby shopping mall had led to some challenges: two chillers were running full-time, yet some areas had inadequate water flow and cooling.

Kwieton explains that they suspected it would be more efficient to re-pipe the [chiller] plant to operate one chiller as a lead and have a lag chiller for those days when they needed additional cooling. With the plan in place, Kwieton leveraged previous experience working with BC Hydro and applied for incentive funding for the project.

The upgrade was completed by Trane Canada ULC with assistance from the mall's operations team. It included re-piping to improve water (and cooling) flow throughout the property.

A VFD (variable frequency drive) was added to the primary chiller so that it only operates as needed. A second chiller was connected to the first to operate as a standby, and now only kicks in on the hottest days of the year.

Efficient chiller system has surpassed projected energy savings

The project cost approximately $364,000 and qualified for an incentive of $190,000. Although the project didn't meet Shape's typical payback threshold of three to five years, they decided to proceed with the project due to the existing water flow issues. And they're seeing results.

The payback period is improving because the project is performing better than expected. After one year, the chiller system was saving 596,000 kWh of energy annually. That's eight per cent better than originally expected, and it's likely even higher, due to additional savings that are harder to measure.

Energy efficiency is a 'natural fit'

Shape is improving energy efficiency at a number of its properties, switching to LED lighting, improving control systems, and engaging tenants in behaviour-change programs.

Kwieton says the company strives for LEED-level sustainability in all its projects and uses life-cycle costing to make sure the input cost of energy is considered in all plans, like the recently opened Highstreet and planned Brentwood expansion. With the success of the Lougheed upgrade, the company is considering how to replicate those savings at its other properties.

"With the incentive and the capital cost, it was a no-brainer," he says. "It was a win-win situation for us in the building because we actually got better water flow throughout the property, which we had problems with, and a far more efficient plant.

"It's just a good thing to do too; it's a good return on our investments as well. It's our corporate mandate to build and operate sustainable projects and properties, so it's just a natural fit."