Recent Heatwave Renews Urgency in Facility Planning for Climate Adaptation
The recent heatwave experienced across the Pacific Northwest saw temperatures reaching 40 C in Vancouver, and even higher in the interior region. Based on climate modelling, the temperatures we recently experienced will become the norm by 2070. While this date may seem like a long way off, the reality is the buildings built today will still be in operation in 2070. As we come to experience more and more extreme weather events, we need to adapt our buildings to be resilient.
Many of the cooling systems in our facilities were designed and installed based on historical design conditions and struggle to maintain space comfort during these extreme events. Some buildings in Coastal BC regions, such as elementary schools and residences, are not equipped with cooling systems altogether. The cooling needs of our facilities is expected to increase to six times that of what it is today by 2070. Assessing buildings for resiliency to future climate conditions will ensure occupancy safety and service continuity.
Climate Risks to BC
The increase in wildfires in recent summers also means indoor air quality becomes a critical part of health and safety in our buildings. Reducing outdoor air volumes to decrease smoke particulate intake contradicts best practices for COVID-19 where we should be ventilating as much as possible. Improving air filtration therefore becomes a solution for adapting to increased wildfires as well as mitigating the transmission of communicable diseases.
This graphic below provides an overview of the risk assessment findings for 15 scenarios of climate risks to BC:
Source: Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (2019). Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment for British Columbia – Summary of Results
You will see that heatwaves and seasonal wildfires are very likely to continue and cause major and nearly catastrophic consequences by 2050.
Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
Now more than ever, climate change mitigation and climate adaptation both play a synonymous role in reducing the impact of climate change, as well as getting our facilities ready to adapt to increased extremes.
Climate Change Mitigation is the process of reducing the impact we have on the changing climate, particularly through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate Adaptation is the process of preparing ourselves for the known and anticipated impacts of climate change.
The BC government is preparing to address resiliency for public sector infrastructure and Prism is supporting this initiative as part of a group of consultants to the Climate Action Secretariate as well as direct services to our public sector clients.
Below are suggestions from CleanBC’s Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy for 2021-2022:
Source: CleanBC (2021). Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy: Draft Strategy and Phase 1 Actions for 2021-2022. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/climate-change/adaptation/cpas_2021.pdf
Prism is ready to help you navigate the myriad of options related to low carbon resiliency and climate adaptation, helping to keep your facilities safe and comfortable into the future for your tenants, staff, and communities.
Congratulations to the first Prism Engineering Award Winner at Langara College
As part of our 30th anniversary celebration last year, Prism staff voted to fund the Langara 49 Women in Science Scholarship program. This scholarship program provides philanthropic support, resources, and mentorship to prepare female students for a successful STEM career. The Prism Engineering Award was established last year as part of this program.
We are proud to congratulate Aislinn Kiel as the first successful recipient of this award for 2021. Aislinn is an Engineering student who demonstrates a passion and commitment to sustainability not only through her studies, but through a produce preservation program she co-founded in 2018. In a single year of operation, Aislinn and her teammates redirected over a thousand pounds of food from landfills and provided hundreds of meals to those in need.
“Every week we collected approximately 80 pounds of unsellable and excess fruits and vegetables from produce distribution companies and green grocers around Vancouver. This unwanted produce was then dehydrated and turned into healthy snacks available for sale to the community.
The profit from our program allowed us to support our community-focused ‘Food Share Program’ where leftover food from large events, such as banquets or conferences, was collected and delivered to homeless shelters and modular housing locations across Vancouver.”
Aislinn is currently working towards an Applied Science Diploma and aims to continue her studies in engineering or sustainability.
“I spend a lot of time worrying about my studies. I want to do well and put in a lot of time and effort. Being selected for this scholarship has given me such a boost of motivation and confidence as well as financial relief. It has been amazing to know that my work is being appreciated and recognized and that someone believes that its worthwhile to support my academic goals.”
It is extremely encouraging to learn about the work students like Aislinn and her peers are doing to reduce waste and support the more vulnerable in our community. We wish Aislinn the best of luck in her future endeavours.
Learn more about the Langara 49 Women in Science Scholarship program here.
Saving energy and improving building operations
As our team continues to grow to meet client needs, we are excited to announce that Richard Senez has joined the Prism team this past spring as our newest Energy Management Professional.
Richard brings with him a passion for sustainability along with over a decade of experience in energy management, HVAC systems, building services and project management in both Canada and the UK.
Richard has enabled teams to successfully deliver the highest standard in commercial building maintenance, performance audits, energy projects, and the deployment of innovative analytical platforms. He has also led Energy Management Systems implementation to the IS0 50001 standard, corporate sustainability initiatives, and comprehensive building optimization programs.
It was his work as an electrician early in his career that gave Richard first-hand experience on HVAC systems and controls in commercial buildings.
“I became very aware of the opportunities to reduce energy waste and saw the impact I could have operationally. This work sparked my interest in the energy efficiency sector and eventually led me to complete the Energy Management Professional course through the Energy Institute and ultimately to the master’s program in Energy, Environmental Technology and Economics at City, University of London.”
To start, Richard will be working with the Energy team to support the Continuous Optimization Program, a joint offer from BC Hydro and FortisBC which supports organizations in saving energy and improving operations in large commercial buildings without having to undertake a major capital investment. The primary focus of the program is to improve the efficiency of the most energy-intensive systems, such as HVAC, with simple, low-cost solutions.
“The sustainability ethos has always been a part of my nature. We are a flexitarian family, we don’t own a car, and we just try to live and raise our children in a sustainable way. Prism’s alignment with sustainability is what really drew me to the organization.”
“Richard brings to Prism a unique combination of hands-on experience and training in building performance and energy management. I am confident our clients will benefit from his expertise as well as his enthusiasm for energy efficiency and optimization,” shares Iram Green, our Energy Team Lead.
When not working, Richard enjoys golfing, skiing and biking with his young kids and his wife. He has also been re-learning the piano and sharpening his cooking skills since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Partnering to support women in need
In recognition of the many challenges women in this community face, Vancouver-based businesses, Prism Engineering and RATIO, partnered up to provide in-kind support to help the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre open a new second, much needed shelter for women.
The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre provides a safe, nonjudgmental environment for women from all walks of life who live or work in the Downtown Eastside.
It offers women supportive surroundings and services for women, including shelter, refreshments and meals, telephone and computer use, safe and clean washrooms and showers, access to clothing and toiletries and medical supplies, housing and referral counselling services, and advocacy services.
For many women who live or work on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the COVID-19 pandemic and its related health restrictions have intensified the challenge of accessing safe, supportive spaces and community services.
“Our community of women has been exasperated and isolated even more so than most by the pandemic as services and access to spaces have been limited,” says Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre Facilities Coordinator Lila Gaylie. “Many services and shelter spaces were closed during the height of the pandemic, which had women facing the stress of the pandemic on top of the stress of finding a safe space.”
Physical distancing requirements put in place by provincial health authorities to slow the spread of COVID-19 also limited access to the centre’s women-only spaces – even as the need for those spaces skyrocketed.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected some communities and put many people in unsafe situations with few options,” says Prism Engineering President Robert Greenwald. “We saw this project as an opportunity to give back and make a real difference to the community during this time of need.”
Prism worked with RATIO Architecture to fast-track the renovation of the shelter to meet high demand and provide women with safe, warm indoor accommodations during the winter. Construction on the former retail space began January 18, 2021 and with the support of the City of Vancouver in the permit process, the centre was open for use just a few weeks later, in early February.
The new space, which includes washrooms, kitchen areas, a reception area for staff, and leisure spaces for women to relax and receive support services, helps alleviate the need. It has allowed the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre to expand its hours and services, and serve more women in the community by giving them a safe place to go that is off the street and out of the line of gender-based violence.
“Prism Engineering and the other groups helping us on this project made a world of difference in ensuring a smooth process and that things were done right, despite the incredibly tight timelines,” says the centre’s Fundraising & Communications Coordinator Ali Omelaniec. “We are so grateful for their generous assistance in providing a safe, functional space that will provide shelter and safety for women in the Downtown Eastside during such a tough time in the community.”
“This pandemic has very clearly shown us that we need to support each other,” Greenwald says “and I encourage others to consider what they can do to help those in our community who need our support the most.”
For information on how to donate to the Downtown Eastside Community Centre, please visit https://dewc.ca/donate.
To find out about other registered charities in B.C. that provide vital services to people in need, visit https://www.canadahelps.org/en/explore/charities/category/social-services/region/BC/.
Welcoming our newest Strategic Energy Management Coach
We are excited to welcome Joshua Caplan as Prism’s Strategic Energy Management (SEM) Coach this spring.
SEM is a holistic approach to energy management that enables businesses to achieve long-term and persistent savings. Instead of managing energy saving projects one by one, SEM provides the tools to manage energy in a coordinated and strategic way across an organization — helping businesses increase profitability, create a competitive advantage, and gain greater resiliency.
This is achieved by using low-cost behavioural, operational and maintenance related opportunities.
Josh will be working with Prism’s team of SEM coaches and energy management professionals to support industrial and commercial clients with their strategic energy management programs.
As a Certified Energy Manager, Joshua has valuable hands-on experience with energy efficiency for buildings, low carbon fleets, GHG accounting and reporting, project management, as well as financial analysis. He has worked in the field of environmental sustainability and energy for over 15 years, both as a consultant and within organizations and has trained and coached over 100 organizations to help develop their GHG inventories and mitigation plans.
Most recently, Joshua managed ICBC’s environmental sustainability team and was responsible for defining and carrying out their environmental sustainability strategy including resource efficiency, GHG targets and cultural goals. And as ICBC’s BC Hydro sponsored Energy Manager, Joshua developed and implemented the organization’s strategic energy management plan.
His interest in sustainability started at a young age.
“As a child growing up Montreal, I spent my summers canoe-tripping in Ontario and Quebec. It solidified my appreciation for the natural environment, our place within it, and our responsibility to protect the earth.”
What drew Josh to Prism was the organizational culture and the people he was already familiar with.
“Everybody I spoke to at Prism shares a commitment to sustainability and passion for addressing climate change. I look forward to supporting other organizations to become more energy efficient and less carbon intensive.”
“Joshua’s experience and expertise will help our clients evaluate and develop energy management practices to advance their sustainability goals. As an effective and engaging facilitator and coach, Josh leverages both his technical and communication skills to empower and motivate the people he works with to take action to reduce energy and carbon. I am excited for the work we’ll do together in the strategic energy management space,” our President, Robert Greenwald, shares.
Outside of work, Josh enjoys skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is also a huge fan of all music, cooking, and playing board games.
Supporting staff engagement in the commercial sector
Over the last 14 years, we have had the opportunity to support over 60 organizations in the commercial sector with their staff engagement and behaviour change programs.
Last summer, we co-authored a white paper with Paul Seo, Program Manager at BC Hydro, for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) 2020 Summer Study about this work.
Those of us working in the energy management understand that, as detailed in the paper, “engaging staff through behaviour change initiatives is a core component of any effective Strategic Energy Management (SEM) program. To successfully transition an organization towards a culture of energy efficiency, building operators, staff, stakeholders and leadership need to be engaged in the process of integrating energy management practices into the organization’s policies and practices.”
Interestingly, “there are few examples of utility demand side (DSM) management programs, [both in Canada and globally,] dedicated specifically to supporting commercial customers in designing and implementing staff and leadership engagement initiatives.”
BC Hydro and FortisBC are leaders in this regard, and we are grateful for our continued partnership with them in delivering these innovative behaviour change programs.
Read the white paper to learn more about the history of behaviour change programs in BC here.
Working with communities to advance sustainable solutions
If you ever get the chance to meet the full Prism team, one of the first things you will notice is the diverse pool of talent that makes up our 50-person company. From engineering solutions to strategic planning, we apply our collective knowledge and experience to help our clients meet their sustainability objectives.
Our team continues to grow, and we are pleased to welcome Charlene Ponto to our Sustainability Team.
Our Sustainability Team Lead, Sarah Smith, shares: “Charlene brings with her a wealth of experience in sustainability planning and reporting, public engagement and strategic communications, key skills for helping organizations advance their sustainability goals. I know our clients will really benefit from her expertise and enthusiasm for this work.”
Charlene says what drew her to Prism was the wide range of sectors our consulting firm serves and the ability to make an impact.
“I have always been passionate about working with communities and organizations to advance social and environmental change,” she says. With over 12 years of experience leading a diverse range of sustainability projects and programs, Charlene brings a strong background in working with stakeholders to increase engagement and foster innovation.
“Prism has a strong set of clients from a wide range of sectors, including advanced education, health authorities, business, industrial, utilities, K-12 and across all levels of municipal, provincial and federal government,” Charlene says. “I’m excited to join the team and help build capacity across sectors to advance our clients’ sustainability and climate action goals.”
Since joining Prism, Charlene has been working on projects with a diverse range of clients. These include sustainability strategy development for school districts, energy conservation coaching programs in the advanced education sector, sustainability reporting and strategy development for energy utilities, and sustainability and communications plan development for the federal government.
Outside of work, Charlene enjoys hiking, kayaking, camping, and road trips on the beautiful west coast. When the pandemic is behind us and COVID-19 restrictions ease up, travelling will also be on top of the wish list.
In these unprecedented times where work is reimagined and mostly taking place remotely, Charlene’s proven ability to build partnerships and lead multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder teams in highly complex environments will be of great value to Prism and our clients.
Welcome to our newest Prism Associate
We are excited to share that Hamid Samani joins Prism Engineering’s leadership team as our newest Prism Associate.
With over 25 years of industry experience, Hamid eagerly shares his mechanical engineering expertise and goes above and beyond to help meet client objectives.
Amidst a challenging and dynamic year, colleagues across multiple Prism teams have often turned to him for mentorship and support.
His genuine smile and passion for his work are contagious, making him a pleasure to work with.
Together with Hamid, the Prism team looks forward to helping our clients create a greener, more energy efficient world.
Sustainability Vision Stakeholder Consultation Process
The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) recently launched a new Sustainability Vision, that outlines nine strategies to leverage the institute’s strengths and create a clear path for sustainability progress.
BCIT hired Prism to help facilitate an in-person and online community engagement process to gather input on the draft Sustainability Vision and Strategies from BCIT’s diverse group of stakeholders.
Working closely with the Institute Sustainability team in fall 2019, Prism supported the design and delivery of a series of consultation initiatives, including multiple open house events and online surveys. Through the process, almost 800 people shared ideas, input and inspiration that helped refine the vision and strategies.
With Prism’s support, BCIT hosted six open houses – one at each of the institute’s five campuses, as well as one at the Centre for Applied Research and Innovation. The events featured a set of large-format posters, created by Prism that:
- shared the draft vision and strategies,
- were used to create a space to gather input from participants, and
- provided information on the context for the work and why BCIT is committed to continuing progress on embedding sustainability into organizational practices.
Prism also developed and conducted several online surveys to gather input from diverse campus and external stakeholders. The surveys allowed campus stakeholders to provide input even if they couldn’t attend one of the open houses.
The final Engagement and Consultation Report collated over 550 comments from students, staff and faculty. It grouped the comments into key themes and ideas that helped to inform updates to the Vision and nine sustainability strategies.
Launched in April 2020, BCIT’s new Sustainability Vision will guide the institute’s sustainability plans and actions through the coming years. To echo the document’s title, it will enable “”people to lead socially just lives within ecological limits.”
Deep Carbon Retrofit Strategies
The global importance of climate change has shifted the focus from energy and cost reductions to carbon reduction.
In a paper published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), we shared specific case studies of deep carbon retrofits and summarized some key lessons learned.
For over 30 years, commercial energy audits have been the cornerstone of energy reduction programs for existing buildings. In the last several years, the shifted focus to reducing carbon has resulted in a new approach to exploring and implementing deep carbon retrofits.
As the lead author of the paper, Robert Greenwald, our President, had the pleasure of presenting some of the highlights at the virtual ACEEE conference in August 2020.
The paper’s highlights included:
- A comparison of energy audits and deep carbon retrofit studies in the commercial sector
- A sample scope of work for a deep carbon retrofit study
- Objectives and benefits of a deep carbon retrofit to shift the mindset of practitioners and building owners
- The practical challenges of implementing deep carbon retrofits
- Considerations for fuel switching and electrification
- Lessons from deep carbon retrofits
Successful case studies resulting in carbon reductions of 50-90% are also shared, including:
- Kitsilano Community Centre and Arena Heat Recovery
- Pacific Environmental Sciences Centre Mechanical Upgrades and Stakeholder Engagement
- Langara College Building A Deep Retrofit
We want to thank Craig Edwards, Energy & Utilities Manager of City of Vancouver, Iram Green, Energy Team Lead of Prism Engineering, and Sam Thomas, Nelson Branch Manager of Prism Engineering for their contributions to this paper.