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Rewarding Excellence in Energy

Alan Lin, energy specialist for VCH, recently won an award from Fortis BC for Energy Specialist Program Achievement in Program Participation in 2015. We wanted to find out more about what this recognition means and why his work matters for GreenCare’s vision of environmental sustainable health care.

Q.  Tell us about your role with VCH.

As an Energy Specialist, I am a member of the Energy & Environmental Sustainability portfolio within the greater Lower Mainland Facilities Management team.  I am responsible for technical input and support regarding the management and analysis of energy data and information for Vancouver Coastal Health. 

My day to day workload varies but often includes engaging consultants and site teams to identify and implement energy reduction opportunities; measurement and reporting on a range of key energy performance indicators and benchmarks to build portfolio knowledge and to support the carbon neutral commitment of Vancouver Coastal Health; monitoring and tracking our green revolving fund, and often connecting with the sustainability coordinators on systemic and behavioral change initiatives.

I have performance targets that drive me to better understand the natural gas consumption and saving opportunities in our facilities. There is a lot of communication with the Fortis BC Conservation and Energy Management team to apply and attract funding support for natural gas saving projects.

Kori Jones, the Vancouver Coastal Health Energy Manager, and I develop partnerships and foster working relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, especially the facilities maintenance and operations team, to continually improve how we work together. 

Q. You recently won a Fortis BC award for Energy Specialist Program Achievement in Program Participation in 2015. Tell us about it?

This award is to recognize the work of Energy Specialist within their organization to help reduce energy consumption by partaking in Fortis BC demand side management programs. The Achievement in Program Participation award is given to Energy Specialist who has participated in Fortis BC demand side management programs and has attracted high incentives from the programs in any given year.

I was awarded this recognition because I have developed a strong knowledge base around the Fortis BC demand site management programs and was able to maximize the incentives for several projects at Vancouver Coastal Health; $246,760 in incentives were captured from a wide range of Fortis BC incentive programs significantly exceeding my target.

The incentives we receive from our industry partners enables us to make a greater impact through our work by increasing the amount of energy and emission reduction project funding we have each year. These projects directly reduce the operating expenses and environmental impacts of our health care facilities.

Q. What are some of the projects you have worked on? How do you choose the sites?

This past year we completed multiple energy studies, two that stand out were at Minoru Residence and Vancouver General Hospital which have the potential for large natural gas saving opportunities.

I have been involved in several boiler plant upgrades, most recently this past year at the Powel River Hospital, featured in Vancouver Coastal Health's Carbon Neutral Action Report. The site’s energy center, which also provides hydronic heating to the new Willingdon Creek Village, was upgraded with a modern hybrid plant in addition to other energy saving measures.

I have been involved in multiple control system re-commissioning projects, continuous optimization program across the region. These projects connect energy consultants and the facilities maintenance and operations team to re-commission the building automation systems.

On the behavioral change front, I have been working with Business Initiatives and Support Services and one food service provider to develop and deliver a pilot campaign to engage food services staff in energy conservation action. 

We try our best to take a strategic approach to identify the greatest energy and emission saving opportunities matched with a strong business case. We use an energy utilization index metric, energy per unit area, to help us monitor and identify which sites have the greatest saving opportunities. Before we transition an energy study into a project we also consider the available incentives from both Fortis BC and BC Hydro, active projects on that site, future development on this site, and if there are any synergies between our projects and the site needs.

Q. What inspires you to do this work? What are some challenges?

I don’t like waste and I want to use energy in the most efficient way and conserve our resources, this is how I was raised as a child. In the health sector alone there are so many opportunities for savings and I think this will keep us busy for many years to come.

One challenge lies in the design of existing building which often has inherent inefficiencies in the heating and ventilation systems. For example, air is often heated to meet patient comfort and clinical needs but then this energy rich air is expelled from the building without recovering its thermal energy! Space utilization can change often on some sites but often the ventilation rates are not adjusted to match so many spaces are over ventilated; conditioning air that is not required.  

Q.  Why should healthcare organizations consider and take action toward conservation and environmental sustainability?

The climate is changing and it is everyone’s responsibility to take action. We are all on the same boat. Health care is in a position to take the first step and act as a role model for other organizations.

The environmental impact from healthcare facilities, operations, and services affects the health of the populations and patients they are meant to serve. There are well documented links between emissions and health outcomes, the Energy & Environmental Sustainability team views our work as a catalyst to support the health and wellness of the populations in the lower mainland and has designed a framework around this core connection.

Q. What projects are you excited to be working on in this coming year?

There is a heat recovery chiller project at the Vancouver General Hospital that will have a large impact on the sites steam demand and potentially reduce the natural gas consumption by eight per cent!

In a typical water cooled chiller plants, the heat generated through the process is transferred to the condenser water which is then rejected into the atmosphere through a cooling tower. This project will capture this low grade waste heat on the condenser side, pass it through the heat recovery chiller, and utilize this water for other heating and domestic hot water loops.

There are also multiple control system optimization projects at varying stages at Vancouver General Hospital, Sechelt Hospital, Squamish General Hospital, UBC Hospital, Kiwanis Care Centre and Lion’s Gate Hospital. These projects help build our site knowledge and build relationships, often leading into other energy opportunities.