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Breaking Barriers

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Lions Gate Hospital works with City Hall on climate action

In 2022, Vancouver Coastal Health’s journey toward sustainability took them into the council chambers of the City of North Vancouver, where on February 14, Mayor Linda Buchanan passed a bylaw amendment to allow the implementation of an active heat recovery chiller system at the Paul Myers Tower at the Lions Gate Hospital (LGH) campus.

The new tower will be technologically advanced, replace aging infrastructure and incorporate innovations that will enable LGH to deliver the highest quality of care possible,” wrote Jill Brimacombe, Senior Project Director of the LGH Redevelopment Project in a letter to the mayor and council. “It will also be built sustainably, so the region will continue to benefit from this significant investment for years to come.”

One of the key features of the tower is an active heat recovery chiller system, which is a common feature in acute hospital facilities and is currently in place at many other VCH facilities and other Lower Mainland facilities, including St. Paul’s Hospital, BC Women’s and Children’s Hospital (TACC Building), and Royal Columbian Hospital.

An active heat recovery chiller system is a type of HVAC system that recovers heat generated by a building’s cooling and ventilation processes, and repurposes it for heating. HVAC systems in hospitals typically consume 60 to 80 per cent of the building’s total energy. By recovering waste heat, active heat recovery chiller systems improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, despite the clear benefits, the City of North Vancouver bylaws prohibited such systems to be connected to the district energy system, managed by the Lonsdale Energy Corporation (LEC). Prior to making the case to the City of North Vancouver, the LGH team collaborated with LEC on an energy data pilot study agreement, ensuring building performance data and system learnings are shared back with the district energy provider.

“Acute care facilities are distinct from most other commercial buildings due to the requirement for high ventilation rates. This enables a large amount of heat to be recovered and offset traditional fossil fuel heating,” says Kori Jones, Energy and Emissions Manager for Vancouver Coastal Health.

The builder’s energy modeling team calculated the potential positive environmental impact and made a case that by enabling this technology at Lions Gate, the City of North Vancouver would empower Vancouver Coastal Health to respond to the climate emergency. The energy modellers found that without the active heat recovery chiller system, the energy consumption of the facility would be 49 per cent higher, and the carbon emissions would increase by 363 per cent. Energy costs would also be 25 per cent higher. These figures will be updated as the design progresses, but the benefits are clear.

Relative increase in carbon, energy and energy cost without heat recovery chiller

Image credit: Edge Consulting

The LGH team then took the remarkable energy modeling findings to council and petitioned for an exemption from the “City of North Vancouver Hydronic Energy Service Bylaw.” The exemption was granted, and the Acute Healthcare Buildings and Pilot Study bylaw amendment was passed on February 14, 2022, enabling VCH to proceed with building a low carbon facility.

The bylaw exemption granted by the City of North Vancouver sets the stage for a renewed institutional partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health, the Lonsdale Energy Corporation, and the City, while reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency. The implementation of the sustainable HVAC system also offers all three parties exciting learning opportunities about clean, renewable energy sources.

The victory is a result of “years of concerted effort and climate action leadership at both VCH and City of North Vancouver,” says Kori Jones. And the fruits of their labour will benefit the region for years to come.