Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: The Macdonald Campus Energy Project: Building Infrastructure for the Future
Year Submitted 2017
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Denis Mondou Director, Utilities & Energy Management and Macdonald Campus Operations
Jerome Conraud Energy Manager
Biagio D'Onofrio Project Manager
Michel Gauthier Supervisor, Macdonald Campus Operations
Macdonald Campus Operations Team
Utilities & Energy Management Team
Project Management Team
Name of Institution McGill University
Office Address 1010 Sherbrooke Street West, 10th Floor
Montreal, Quebec H3A 2R7
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Telephone: 514-398-8192
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Yves Beauchamp
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) VP, Administration and Finance
Office Address 845 Sherbrooke Street West
Room 531
Montreal, Quebec H3A 0G4
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Telephone: 514-398-6037
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

This project is about the holistic rethinking of energy production, distribution, and consumption on the Macdonald Campus of McGill University.

Macdonald Campus is home to McGill’s Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Science.  The campus was built in the early 1900s.  The steam production and distribution system was as old as the campus and had become inefficient with time: there were major losses on the network (50% inefficiency in the summer) and end-users were located far from production facilities.  To ensure continued operation, major investments were required without even addressing energy efficiency, systems flexibility, campus growth, and climate change considerations. 

Instead of considering only production and distribution systems, McGill seized the opportunity to plan for the future and opted for a more holistic approach.  Energy audits of all campus buildings and of the production facilities were commissioned.  These audits were complemented with feasibility studies of renewable energy technologies, innovative energy conservation measures, and conventional energy conservation measures.  A consultation with the Macdonald Campus community was organized to gauge the acceptability of different measures.  The intent was to design a solution most adapted to McGill's context, with the highest acceptability and lowest overall risk.  McGill leveraged a combination of deferred maintenance funds, energy conservation loan, and incentive programs to optimize investments. 

The final solution relied on key orientations:

  • Minimize building energy use: by converting ventilation systems and retro-commissioning most building systems.
  • Maximize heat recovery: from ventilation exhausts, heat-generating research equipment, and combustion fumes.
  • Minimize distribution losses: by relocating energy production closer to end-users.  One new powerhouse was built to supply core campus buildings as well as two satellite boiler rooms to feed remote clusters.
  • Rationalize energy sources: by using the right energy source for the right applications, deploying a low-temperature hot water network, and downsizing the steam distribution.
  • Prepare for the future: by building the backbone of a distribution system to which components can be added in the future, e.g., new buildings coming online, geothermal wells, or solar panels.
Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

The methodology applied to design this project is easily transferable to any campus facing the same challenges: central distribution, old infrastructure requiring major upgrade, and low overall efficiency.  Our team rationalized solution seeking and designed an optimal solution given a set of pre-defined and often conflicting decision-making parameters including: technology maturity, risk management, social acceptability, technical feasibility, financial feasibility, energy efficiency, relevance to local context, and operability.  This type of analysis is seldom if ever performed to select energy conservation technologies especially in projects whose primary focus is to replace core infrastructure.

Quality Impact

More control over temperature and ventilation airflows in buildings resulting in increased occupational comfort in four buildings representing 46% of the total area covered by the project.

Upgraded controls resulting in more flexible operations, the possibility to implement energy-saving measures such as night setback strategies, and more intelligence now available on building and energy systems, thereby increasing the quality of analysis and day-to-day problem solving.

Resilient systems: several heat recovery systems were installed to recover heat from ventilation exhausts, heat-generating research equipment, and combustion fumes, thereby increasing resilience of mechanical systems and reducing the strain on boilers.

More knowledgeable team: the Macdonald Campus Operations team have been key stakeholders at every step of the project: from energy audits to the technology watch, pre-design and solution proposals, design, construction, and commissioning phases of the project.  The team thereby acquired technical knowledge and a deep understanding of mechanical systems which will ensure the systems are operated optimally and savings are achieved.

Quality assurance process: from the start, the project team focussed on and conceived of project commissioning as a quality assurance process guaranteeing the project would be delivered on time, on budget and would meet operational requirements and achieve expected savings.  A three-year follow-up mandate was given to the commissioning agent and to this day, the agent is actively involved in guaranteeing the project performs as planned.

Productivity Impact

Four major HVAC systems and 200 mixing boxes were renovated covering 46% of the campus.

Note: not all HVAC systems were renovated within this project's budget envelope but the project gave rise to spin-off projects including the conversion of HVAC systems in two major buildings and the conversion boilers at the Macdonald Farm.

By leveraging energy efficiency opportunities, new infrastructure was built for the future using alternative funds including an energy conservation loan (65%) with a 15-year payback, utility programs (6%), provincial energy conservation program (4%), and deferred maintenance funds (25%).

Success indicators – targets:

Reduction in energy use: 46% for natural gas, 14% electricity, 35% overall energy. 

Absolute reduction in energy use: 38,200 GJ natural gas, 6,400 GJ electricity, 44,600 GJ total, i.e. the equivalent annual consumption of 315 typical Canadian homes. To be compared with a total energy use of 128,000 GJ before project. 

Financial savings: $450k annual savings, i.e. 28% relative to pre-project utility charges. 

Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions: 46% relative, 1,900 tons CO2eq absolute, i.e. the equivalent of 400 passenger vehicles off the road. 

Overall energy mix: 47% renewable energy on campus (up from 35% before project). 

Actuals after 12 months of operation:

Note: during the first 12 months of operation (Dec/15 through Nov/15), most systems were still in their commissioning phase and lots of adjustments have been necessary to ensure optimal operation and energy performance.  The commissioning process is still under way as part of the three-year follow-up mandate of the commissioning agent.  As such, actual results for the first 12 months of operation are much below the targets but we are confident that the commissioning process will ensure targets are met.  Since most mechanical systems on campus have been impacted by this project one way or the other, such challenges were anticipated by the project team who did not expect 100% of the savings to materialize during the first year of operation.  As well, a portion of the old steam network was kept in operation until the summer of 2016 to supply a building whose mechanical systems could not be converted on time.

Reduction in energy use: 27% natural gas, 3% electricity, 16% overall energy.

Absolute reduction in energy use: 19,300 GJ natural gas, 1,150 GJ electricity, 20,500 GJ total (46% of expected savings)

Financial savings: $203k (45% of announced savings).

Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions: 965 tons CO2eq absolute, i.e. equivalent of 200 passenger cars off the road.

Overall energy mix: 45% renewable energy on campus.


Project process: Instead of working on a pre-defined solution or a specific technology, our team chose to widen the lens and used a systems thinking approach.  Instead of focussing on steam distribution only, the team sought first to reduce energy end-use consumption and recover lost energy.  This opened the door to new opportunities such as the conversion of the existing distribution from high temperature (steam) to low temperature (water) which would in turn allow for the integration of renewable energy technologies heretofore incompatible with existing systems.

Project output: although no innovative technologies have been implemented within the frame of this project, a wealth of technologies (50+) have been evaluated and the final conclusion was that the backbone infrastructure needed major upgrading to allow us to even only think about the possible integration of renewable energy technologies which typically work with low-temperature and are thus incompatible with steam.  This project made possible the future integration of geothermal or solar energy which would not have been technically possible in a cost-effective way before.  We now have the possibility to meet the Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Science's vision to reach 90% renewable energy for the campus.

Project funding: perhaps less innovative but definitely out of the box, the systems thinking approach used on this project allowed McGill to replace old infrastructure and build infrastructure for the future making very little use of deferred maintenance funds, of which McGill has dire need, and using instead alternative sources of funding that would not have been available without broadening the scope of the project: energy conservation, utility programs, and provincial energy efficiency program.

Supporting Documents