UVic energy plant delayed, but still on the way

$20-million plant being built by Fine Arts buildings

An artist’s rendition of what the new energy plant might look like, complete with normal students doing normal things. Photo via UVic

Nearly $20 million has been budgeted for a new campus energy plant, which is currently under construction between the Interfaith Chapel and the Fine Arts Buildings.

Although UVic originally intended for the building to be operational by March after breaking ground in the summer of 2017, UVic Director of Campus Planning and Sustainability Mike Wilson currently anticipates it should be completed by this coming fall.

Even though the plant will be powered by natural gas, Wilson estimates this new facility will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent.

“Many of the existing boilers have reached the end of their operational lives,” says Wilson. “New, more efficient boiler systems will replace them.”

The current system is powered by three natural gas powered boiler plants which sustain a hydronic heating loop through 32 buildings across campus. Housed in Cadboro Commons, McKinnon, and the Engineering Lab Wing, the soon to be decommissioned plants were constructed in 1968, 1974, and 1994 respectively.

Approximately 10 trees and a portion of Parking Lot Six were torn up to make room for this new energy plant system.

Once the new plant is completed, it will allow for the updated energy system to be consolidated in one location. Although alternative sources of energy such as biomass were considered, it was ultimately decided that these options would not be viably supported.

The energy plant was designed to satisfy requirements for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] V4 Gold Certification. In 2014, UVic committed to a Sustainability Action Plan that dictates all major renovations and new buildings must achieve a LEED Gold or equivalent standard of certification. According to Wilson, this will be UVic’s seventh LEED Gold building if certified.

Approximately 10 trees and a portion of Parking Lot Six were torn up to make room for this new energy plant system. While 30 new trees and shrubs will be planted around the energy plant and areas recently excavated to connect the new heating lines, there are no current plans to reallocate the estimated 28 parking spaces Parking Lot Six will have lost to this project.

Inspired by the Interfaith Chapel, the new building will have a sloped roof designed to funnel rainwater into a garden on its north and east sides.

Long term, Wilson envisions this project as something that will not only provide the campus with a reliable and updated heating system, but also “allow us to explore new technologies, as they develop and become commercially available, [and] to transition to alternative energy sources in the future.”

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