Completed between 2001 and 2008, ECOTrek involved retrofitting 288 UBC academic buildings to reduce energy and water consumption. At the time, ECOTrek was the largest energy and water retrofit project ever to have taken place on a Canadian campus.

In the four years prior to launch, UBC’s utility costs had doubled as a result of climbing energy prices. The project goal was to reduce energy and water consumption in core academic buildings, along with associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, thereby reducing the University’s energy costs.

ECOTrek provided a mechanism to fund the renewal of campus facilities, and use new technologies to replace aging utility management infrastructure.

ECOTrek Sustainability Targets

UBC’s ECOTrek targets were incorporated as part of our first sustainability strategy, Inspirations and Aspirations.

Targets set include:

  • 20 per cent reduction in intensity of energy use
  • 30 per cent reduction in water use
  • Reduction of associated GHG emissions

ECOTrek Project Improvements

  • Interior Lighting: replaced inefficient lighting with new fixtures and installed occupancy sensors
  • Exterior Lighting: converted exterior incandescent and mercury vapour lights to efficient lighting and upgraded controls, to minimize “on” time during daylight hours
  • Steam Distribution: repaired deteriorated steam distribution and condensate return piping systems
  • Central Steam Plant: installed new low nitrogen oxide (NOx) burners, conducted boiler control upgrades, and installed new feedwater pumps and water-side economizers to recover heat from the stack exhaust
  • Chilled Water Systems: replaced chilled water systems that generate air conditioning with new, high-efficiency electric chillers
  • Automated Building Controls: improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) controls to provide better temperature control, and to schedule systems to operate only when required
  • Metering: installed electricity, steam and water meters in campus academic buildings to quantify consumption and provide transparent information to building occupants
  • Water Conservation: conducted changes to basins, toilets, urinals and water-cooled equipment to reduce the amount of water used on campus
  • Staff Training: created new manuals and training for operational staff to support and maintain new equipment and processes

The budget for ECOTrek was over $39 million, a little more than double our annual $17 million energy bill. BC Hydro provided incentives of nearly $4 million, contingent on the realization of projected electricity savings. The University supplied a loan for the remaining funds, to be repaid over a 24-year period, out of guaranteed utility savings of at least $2.6 million annually.

We also pursued savings by addressing general maintenance-related issues and launching staff and student awareness programs. These measures complemented our goal to institutionalize sustainability within the campus community.

MCW Custom Energy Solutions Ltd., a leading national energy service company, developed and delivered ECOTrek through an energy performance contract and conducted energy audits of 288 campus buildings.

ECOTrek Results

The project construction phase ended in 2007/08, and a monitoring and verification report was produced to ensure that the promised energy savings had materialized.

As of 2007/08, ECOTrek had achieved the following:

  • Total carbon dioxide-equivalent GHG emissions from institutional buildings were reduced by 23 per cent per metre squared, from 2000 levels (adjusted for growth)
  • Non-renewable energy consumption from institutional buildings was reduced by 23 per cent per metre squared, against 2000 levels
  • Water consumption from institutional buildings was reduced by 35 per cent per metre squared, against 2000 levels
  • Retrofitting the boilers in UBC’s steam plant resulted in nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions being 86 per cent lower in 2006 than in 2000

The six-year ECOTrek program eliminated an estimated $20 million from our accumulated deferred maintenance debt. The program also resulted in a sub-metering infrastructure that we use to analyze building performance and initiate programs to maintain buildings at an optimized state. Most importantly, ECOTrek allowed us to create a solid model to implement other energy management initiatives.

For more information about ECOTrek, read our Energy Management Case Study.