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How a key performance metric helps keep TRU on track

Image of the Thompson Rivers University campus
Thompson River University in Kamloops is saving about $100,000 a year in energy costs, plus another $45,000 in avoided maintenance costs, through upgrades including replacement of 20,000 less efficient lamps.

Declaration for sustainability plays big part in Kamloops institution's future

In April 2010, the president of Thompson Rivers University (TRU), Dr. Alan Shaver, joined 500 university leaders in 50 countries when he signed the Talloires Declaration. It was the mandate Jim Gudjonson had been waiting for.

As the institution's energy manager and director of the sustainability office, Gudjonson immediately understood the significance of the signature, and prepared for what he knew would be a busy time ahead.

"Signing the Talloires Declaration signalled to our students, staff and the Kamloops community that Thompson Rivers University is committed to sustainability, that strategic energy management is a priority at TRU, and that our senior administrators take the effects of climate change seriously," he says.

The Talloires (pronounced Tal-Whar) Declaration is the first official statement made by university administrators of a commitment to environmental sustainability in higher education. It's a 10-point action plan [PDF] for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research and operations.

"Increasing sustainability" almost immediately became one of TRU's five strategic priorities, a move that gave Gudjonson the funding he needed to create and implement the institution's first Strategic Sustainability Plan with the support of BC Hydro. The plan was approved by the president and board of governors in 2014 and committed the institution to an energy reduction target of 33% by 2022 with progress tracked year over year by Gudjonson.

Right metrics key to effectively managing growth and performance

"Managing growth isn't an easy task for an energy manager – even a seasoned one," says Gudjonson, who has watched his facilities portfolio grow by 22,000 square metres in his eight years at TRU – the equivalent of adding twenty 10,000-square-foot buildings to the campus.

"One of the tools of the trade that we use to keep a handle on our performance at TRU is a BEPI or building energy performance index," he explains. "BEPI is a metric that monitors a building's energy use intensity per square metre. It combines fuel types, such as gas and electricity, and let's us see how a building is performing relative to its size.

"When you're expanding, it can be hard to identify exactly how much energy you're saving year over year, but using a BEPI you can look back at the buildings you've retrofitted, and if the BEPI drops from 35 to 27 [for those buildings] you know you're on the right track."

During Gudjonson's tenure, and with support from BC Hydro's demand-side management programs, TRU has seen a 32% reduction in energy consumption and its average BEPI drop from 32 to 28, with a campus-wide LED lighting retrofit contributing significantly to the reductions.

"We replaced about 20,000 lamps in total. We went from 28-watt fluorescent lamps to 12-watt LEDs, cutting our lighting load by two-thirds overnight," he says.

The upgrade is saving TRU $100,000 a year in electricity costs and another $45,000 a year in maintenance-related costs.

Bolstered by those results, Gudjonson now has his sights set on the institution's 2022 goal. He recently received funding from BC Hydro to complete energy studies on five existing buildings under expansion and has plans to replace the boilers in several other buildings and install occupancy sensors in student residences'. The goal appears to be well within sight.