Cool Campus

Effective Wednesday, December 12, Energy & Water Services in conjunction with Student Housing and Hospitality Services, UBC Athletics, Building Operations, and Campus & Community Planning will be reducing the temperatures in buildings across the university.

Slightly reducing temperatures within buildings can significantly reduce our use of Natural gas and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.


Why are you dropping the building temperature on campus?

Originally, the temperature drop was precipitated by a pipeline rupture this October, which diminished provincial natural gas supplies. As the winter heating season approaches its peak demand, UBC is joining institutions across BC to do our part to reduce natural gas consumption.

Hasn’t the pipeline been repaired?

The Enbridge pipeline near Prince George, BC has been repaired and has returned to 85 per cent operating capacity. Thanks to conservation efforts, mild winter weather, and healthy storage levels, BC’s natural gas supply outlook is now more optimistic.

What does it mean to have our natural gas supply curtailed?

Normally UBC uses natural gas as a heating fuel. When gas supplies are stressed, as they were during the pipeline disruptions, FortisBC can curtail our use by asking UBC to shut off natural gas to the Campus Energy Centre, which saves the majority of the natural gas consumption for the campus. All other Natural Gas on campus continues to operate as normal.

In our gas delivery contract with FortisBC, like any industrial user, we can be curtailed from using natural gas if the temperature drops below -7°C. This year, due the extraordinary circumstances with the pipeline, we could possibly be curtailed at any temperature.

Is burning natural gas our only choice for creating heat?

The majority of the academic buildings on campus are heated from the hot-water based academic district energy system. UBC has reduced is dependency on natural gas through the use of our bioenergy facility, which provides 25% of UBC’s heating needs.

Although plans are in development for expansion of the bioenergy facility to further lessen UBC’s dependence on natural gas, for present operations our most cost- and energy-effective fuel is natural gas. Diesel, our alternate fuel, creates significantly more greenhouse gas emissions and is more expensive.

How is the temperature controlled at UBC?

Much of our heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) at UBC is automated through a Building Management System (BMS). The campus-wide BMS allows UBC to adjust the temperature set points across our campus. Thermostats measure the local area around them and can be affected by local heat sources or cooler areas. In this instance we are using the BMS to lower the set point of the thermostats to reduce our energy consumption.

Is this going to happen in every building?

The temperature drop will be implemented widely across campus, independent of building type. However, the drop will not apply to spaces serving animal care, childcare, museums, art galleries, collections, labs, and exam rooms.

What if I’m still cold?

If you dress appropriately you should be just as comfortable as if the temperature was higher.  If your space continues to be too cold. Please speak with your supervisor and building administrator so local solutions can be assessed and implemented. More information on how you can get personally involved in saving energy can be found on the UBC Sustainability website.

Can I use a space heater?

Please do not use space heaters. Our electrical infrastructure is not designed to support the additional load. This will cause power outages — which may affect academic or research space. Building Operations will not be prioritizing localized electrical outages.

Local heating from space heaters will also have the effect of causing thermostats to reduce the heating even further to your room to compensate — leaving local warm spots around the space heater but the larger room even cooler that the intended set point.