Case studies: Canadian Circle of Champions

The following energy benchmarking champions are stakeholders in the commercial and institutional buildings sector who have committed to the routine practice of energy benchmarking and who use the information obtained from their benchmarking activities to develop and implement energy saving action plans that contribute to a healthier environment.

These organizations have successfully integrated benchmarking as part of their overall energy management strategies. Check out their stories to learn how you can do the same.

If you would like to see your organization listed among these champions or have your energy benchmarking efforts celebrated in our Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency newsletter, submit your story. For more information, email or call 1-877-360-5500 (toll-free).

Capital District Health Authority, Nova Scotia

Capital District Health Authority, Nova Scotia

Energy benchmarking makes difference at Nova Scotia’s Capital Health Authority

Nova Scotia’s largest provider of health services, Capital District Health Authority (Capital Health), provides medical services to the residents of Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), as well as specialist services to Atlantic Canada. Since 2012, Capital Health has incorporated energy efficiency into its operations through a partnership with Nova Scotia’s Department of Health & Wellness and Efficiency Nova Scotia (ENS). The partnership’s goal was to build the internal structures to investigate, evaluate and implement energy savings projects. The partnership is the first initiative of its kind in the province and has served as a model for other health authorities in Nova Scotia.

In 2013, as part of this initiative, Capital Health started benchmarking its energy consumption using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. This tool is the only free, online national energy benchmarking tool in Canada that provides metrics based on statistically valid data.. Portfolio Manager helps facility managers and operators identify poorly performing buildings to strategically invest in energy efficient upgrades and improvements.

There are a few factors that led Capital Health to use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. In the past, most of its hospital sites did not have adequate tools to accurately track energy use at the building level. An energy management information system with sub meters measuring electricity, water, and steam consumption for each of the seven buildings on the Nova Scotia Hospital (NSH) campus was installed in the 2011–2012 fiscal year, with some assistance from Efficiency Nova Scotia. A metering project implemented at the Nova Scotia Hospital campus enabled Capital Health to calculate energy intensity numbers for each building. Portfolio Manager was the next logical step to further this initiative and monitor and track energy data at all 26 of its buildings – representing about 375,000 m2 of building space.

According to David Bligh, ENS on-site energy manager at Capital Health, “There has been a big push at Capital Health and through the Department of Health & Wellness to get a handle on utility costs.” He added that “benchmarking is a natural extension of that desire.”

“The tools available in Portfolio Manager have been very easy to use, especially the reporting function,” said Bligh when discussing the start-up process. “Creating profiles was very quick and easy; all that was needed was an estimate of gross floor area, knowledge of the type of hospital and what sort of activities take place, and the age of the building,” he elaborated.

“We know that we have some buildings that perform very well and some that don’t; and there have been a few surprises when we compare results. It’s only been a few months since we’ve had a full 12 months of data for each meter at each site, but we can certainly see how it will inform us in the future,” stated Bligh.

Today, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is an integral part of how the bills are paid every day. And, as a result, that data will be available for years to come as a resource to planners and anyone else interested in reducing utility costs. Capital Health is currently engaged in a strategic energy management planning exercise to help inform the priorities of the incoming provincial health authority. In addition, they are continuing to improve building and plant systems to deliver the same services at a reduced cost. Portfolio Manager benchmarks have recently helped in the selection of a building for a project focused on reducing the energy used by HVAC circulation pumps, and Capital Health intends to continue using the Portfolio Manager tools to identify and verify energy projects.

For more information on Capital Health’s environmental programs, visit

To learn more about how your hospital can benefit from energy benchmarking, visit NRCan’s Energy benchmarking for hospitals page.

This story appeared originally in Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency, Volume 2, Issue 2.

City of Richmond, British Columbia

City of Richmond, British Columbia

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager: spotlight on the City of Richmond

The City of Richmond, British Columbia, recently concluded its first-ever Richmond Energy Challenge.

The Challenge aims to help building owners, managers and operators reduce energy use in their facilities, by providing training, services, tools and a community of peers. The Challenge was launched in September 2014 and culminated in an awards ceremony in September 2015 to recognize those buildings that have achieved the greatest savings.

Intended for commercial, institutional and multi-family buildings, the Challenge was a fun, informative and friendly competition to reduce energy use and increase building management and operations staff’s skills in energy management. Energy use was tracked and monitored using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

The City facilitated training and workshops for participants that focused on how to develop energy saving projects and take advantage of utility incentives. Assistance in entering data into Portfolio Manager was also provided as part of the City’s offerings.

The City set an internal target of 5 million square feet (465,000 square metres) of building area and 70 organizations.

For more information on the Richmond Energy Challenge, visit the City of Richmond’s Sustainability & Environment page.

This story appeared originally in Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency, Volume 1, Issue 6.

Crown Realty Partners

Crown Realty Partners

Benchmarking helps keep Crown Realty Partners staff motivated

Crown Realty Partners is a private co-owner and manager of mid-sized office buildings in the Greater Toronto Area. Established in 2001, this organization has a mission that drives its quest to provide superior value in commercial real estate investment.

Crown uses several external energy benchmarking programs, in addition to its internal benchmarking routine. The organization uses Real Property Association of Canada's Energy Benchmarking Program as well as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to support certification of various buildings under the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) high performance green buildings rating system. Crown also participated in CaGBC’s former GREEN UP program.

Crown Realty Partners views benchmarking as a proven energy-saving technique. Benchmarking supports the company’s continuous improvement efforts as it strives to lower costs, extend equipment life, etc. which ultimately benefits its tenants. One of the biggest wins for the organization has been the education and motivation of the staff, resulting from the collective review of its energy benchmarking data. The organization has a number of young and new operators, so the ongoing review and analysis of energy benchmarking results highlights and prioritizes opportunities for energy improvement.

Crown’s energy benchmarking efforts have been worthwhile and have assisted the organization to realize consistent energy savings year after year, with over 2% savings in 2011 from 2010 across its portfolio.

EPIC Realty Partners

EPIC Realty Partners

EPIC Realty Partners uses benchmarking to meet its energy and environmental goals

EPIC Realty Partners is a national commercial real estate services firm that owns and operates over 350,000 m2 of commercial office property in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

EPIC uses ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and used to participate in the Canada Green Building Council’s former GREEN UP program. The organization tracks a small sample set of buildings on an ongoing basis, monitors the performance of these buildings over time and then compares this performance with that of other office buildings.

EPIC started benchmarking its energy performance to identify its performance relative to its peers in the industry and to enhance its competitiveness in the commercial office market. According to EPIC, the ability to compare energy usage across its portfolio and the industry is the biggest benefit of energy benchmarking. If one of its buildings is underperforming, benchmarking data provides information that can motivate improvement. Energy benchmarking is a reliable tool that helps EPIC manage energy use in its buildings. Tracking energy performance and aligning with the industry are among EPIC’s corporate energy and environmental goals. Operational changes, tenant engagement, audits and retrofits are being implemented in all of EPIC's buildings.

Simcoe County District School Board

Simcoe County District School Board

Benchmarking sends the Simcoe County District School Board to the top of the class

Simcoe County District School Board is a large school board in south-central Ontario with both urban and rural schools. It has 104 schools serving more than 50,000 students. Its new Mundy's Bay Public school received LEED-NC Gold certification during the 2009-2010 school year.

The school board has participated in the Sustainable Schools and GREEN UP® pilot external energy benchmarking programs. Three of its schools were listed among the Top 20 energy performing schools in Canada, with its Mundy's Bay school ranked as one of the most efficient schools in Canada in 2009.

In 2009, the Ontario Ministry of Education provided grants to school boards to improve their energy efficiency. When the Simcoe County District School Board received $9.6 million in funding, it embarked on a comprehensive energy management program with a goal to maximize the energy efficiency of its schools and facilities, while establishing targets, standards and improving operations.

A number of retrofits have been completed, including lighting upgrades and replacements, building automation upgrades, and mechanical improvements. The school board tracked progress and benchmarking energy performance throughout the process. The Simcoe County District School Board's public schools were recognized among the 2009 top 20 Energy Performers in Canada, as announced in the Enerlife 2009 List of Top Energy Performing Schools.

The school board continues to reap the rewards of its energy retrofit actions: in 2011, it reported savings of 5.8% of its total energy use compared to 2010.

University of Calgary

University of Calgary

University of Calgary uses savings from benchmarking to support future energy improvements

The University of Calgary is one of Canada's top research universities. With a student population of 31,000, the University's campus spans over 200 hectares - an area larger than downtown Calgary. There are more than 60 buildings that, combined, cover a floor area of almost 790,000 m2 (8.5 million ft2). All of the university's buildings are fully occupied, and most of them are between 20 and 40 years old. The economic boom in Alberta led to significant growth in attendance, which inspired the University to embark on a large capital expansion.

As a signatory to the voluntary University and College Presidents' Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada initiative, the University released a Climate Action Plan, which outlines the University's commitment from the top level of management to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve targets of a 45% reduction by 2015 and 80% by 2050.Footnote 2

To support the implementation and achievement of the targets outlined in the University's Climate Action Plan, the University enrolled 35 of its buildings into the Canada Green Building Council's GREEN UP® program to benchmark the energy and water use of these buildings against other similar buildings in Canada. The GREEN UP® database also normalized for weather and allowed the buildings to track their performance over time. In addition, a building performance audit was conducted in each of the buildings. The performance metrics collected from the various building systems were compared against metrics from other buildings. This enabled the University to prioritize key areas for retrofits, identify potential operational improvements and establish performance targets.Footnote 3

The University then implemented operational energy-saving initiatives and low-cost measures. The resulting savings feed a revolving energy fund used to finance recommissioning, upgraded controls and various retrofit measures.

Vancouver School Board

Vancouver School Board

Vancouver School Board gets top marks for sustainability

The Vancouver School Board (VSB) is working toward making all of its schools more energy efficient while providing a better working environment for students and staff. New and renovated schools incorporate many sustainability features, such as energy-efficient lighting and mechanical systems, environmentally friendly building materials, water and energy conservation mechanisms, and the use of sunlight and natural ventilation throughout the school building.

“We are proud to be recognized for our energy conservation efforts and to be leading the way amongst school districts in the province in this area," said Kirthi Roberts, Manager of Energy & Climate Action for VSB. "The Vancouver School Board is integrating energy, carbon-reduction and sustainability initiatives through our operations and management and student engagement activities.”

Facility-based sustainability initiatives are listed below.

Charles Dickens Elementary School – LEED Silver Project

Sir Charles Dickens Elementary School [PDF – 1.6 MB] is the first accredited LEED® school in the Vancouver school district. The new school minimizes its ecological footprint and provides a healthy environment for more than 500 staff and students.

The total building area of 3,555 m2 (38,266 square feet) has 22 day-lit and geothermal heated classrooms, a library, special education rooms, a post-disaster level gymnasium, a commons/lunch room, a kitchen, a rooftop teaching garden, rainwater collection (for all the toilet flushing needs), and an underground parkade.

Redesigned lighting systems and power management software on VSB computers

Redesigning lighting systems and installing power management software on school computers helped the VSB earn recognition as one of BC Hydro’s Top 10 Power Smart customers in the province for two years in a row.

One of the leading projects for the district was the installation of power management software on 10,000 school computers. The power management software is saving 2.5 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity per year. That is equivalent to over 7 percent of the district’s total energy bill.

Lighting systems in the district have also been analyzed and recent retrofits are reducing electricity consumption by another 2 million KWh (2 GWh) per year. Much of the energy savings can be attributed to the installation of energy-efficient T-8 fluorescent tubes, which give better quality light and significant energy savings. Some classrooms have been redesigned to include multiple light switches so the amount of light in the classroom can be controlled. Daylight and occupancy sensors have also been installed and contribute to energy savings.

Refrigerator Energy Reduction and Conservation Program

With support from the school district’s facilities department, 4 high schools conducted an audit of their refrigerators as part of a pilot project. The audit was conducted to determine the quantity, size, age, and energy consumption of the refrigerators. For each unit removed, the schools received cash equivalent to the electricity the units would have otherwise consumed in one year; these funds were redirected to other energy conservation and sustainability efforts in the schools.

The four schools collectively removed 34 inefficient refrigerator and freezer units, which were recycled in an environmentally responsible manner. As an incentive for reducing the total refrigerator count, the schools qualified for 16 new ENERGY STAR® qualified refrigerators to replace some of the worst offenders left behind.

In 2011, the VSB expanded its refrigeration energy conservation program to include more schools – if all 109 schools in the district followed the example of the 4 pilot schools, the energy saved on refrigeration would be equivalent to removing 2 to 3 elementary schools from the BC Hydro electricity grid forever. For more information, see the school board’s news release.

Solar Energy

With funding from the Province of British Columbia, Solar BC, Fortis BC (formerly Terasen Gas) and Natural Resources Canada, the Vancouver School Board installed 5 solar hot-water (thermal) systems at 5 secondary schools in 2010. An additional solar-electric unit (photovoltaic) was installed in another secondary school with provincial funding. For further information, visit the board’s web page on its solar installations.

Awareness initiatives

BC Hydro Energy Ambassadors

Vancouver secondary school students are leading the way by working with BC Hydro to encourage energy conservation and sustainability in their schools through the BC Hydro Energy Ambassadors program.

UBC co-op student research on HVAC control systems

VSB hired a UBC co-op student to review the direct digital control systems in place across the school district and make recommendations for improvement to reduce electricity and heating loads in the schools. See the board’s web page on the UBC co-op student for further information.

Students participate in Green Building Conference

As part of the opening of the CIRS 'greenest building in North America,' 16 VSB students from 8 schools participated in the 3-day Green Building Conference at UBC held November 3-5, 2011. Students had the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by experts on sustainability from around the globe (including those from Oxford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). World-renowned local experts such as David Suzuki and Prof. John Robinson from the University of British Columbia were also present at the conference.

For more information on the Vancouver School Board’s energy efficiency efforts, visit their web page on Sustainable School Design.

This story appeared originally in Heads Up Energy Efficiency, November 2011 (archived).