Monday, April 15, 2019

FM preps campus for the warm temperatures ahead

Winter is over and FM switches to cooling
Winter is (hopefully) a distant memory and FM has begun to prepare the campus for air conditioning.

Preparing the system for cooling in an annual routine that can take a couple of weeks to complete and may lead to a little discomfort during the transition.

As with every Spring, warmer than normal building temperatures can be expected at Western as a result of the seasonally variant weather. The fluctuations in outdoor conditions during the early Spring and Fall are known as the 'shoulder season' and present an annual challenge for Western’s heating and cooling provider.

Power Plant operators monitor boilers and chillers
When compared to the average household, the size and complexity of Western’s district heating and cooling system (from the central power plant) has significant differences.  For example, a quick flick of a switch on the thermostat at home and the air conditioning kicks in. Turn it the other way and the furnace fires up. On campus, however, the switch from providing cool air to buildings in the summer to warm air in the winter is much more involved. Furthermore, once there is a commitment to begin cooling campus buildings, it isn’t feasible to reverse the process until the following Fall.

In many of our buildings, the same infrastructure and distribution pipes are shared between the heating and cooling system. As a result, warm and cold air cannot be generated and sent through a building at the same time.

“It’s like comparing a freighter to an outboard motorboat,” says Facilities Management Communications Officer, Brandon Watson. “You can’t make sudden adjustments with such a large vessel– you must begin planning and executing well in advance if you are turning around”.

One of the chillers cooling campus over the summer
The systems are massive. Chillers, which are located both in the south plant and in the basement of Natural Sciences building, produce enough capacity to cool about 5,000 homes. Steam, used for heating indoor air, is produced in the south plant. In the winter months, the boilers can push out 400,000 pounds of steam an hour to Western buildings and University Hospital – enough to heat 40 Budweiser Gardens.

Aside from the enormity of the system, the decision to switch from heating to cooling on campus relies on other factors. Weather plays the greatest role in determining the schedules. If there are hot days ahead, Facilities Management may initiate the switch to air conditioning in early April. However, by filling coils to early, sub-zero outdoor temperatures could return and damage the water-filled pipes.

“Splits in the coils are problematic,” says Watson. “Depending on the rupture, whole coils may need to be repaired or replaced, putting efforts to cool the buildings again next year behind schedule. We continue to balance protecting our infrastructure and keeping campus comfortable during the shoulder seasons. I hope our clients will continue to be patient as we get the freighter turned around.”

Community members experiencing warm temperatures this Spring are encouraged to contact Facilities Management at ext. 83304 or online at The concern may be related to the shoulder season or there may be a need for repairs to the system, such as improper control settings or fan and pump failures. The Division will maintain a record of customer calls in order to create a profile to be used to improve the system moving forward.

Because of the cyclical nature of heating and cooling, the information from this article has been republished from a previous post.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

It takes a village to raise awareness


10 The amount of fees in millions of dollars in which Western is projected to save since beginning to strategically target demand peaks days seven years ago.

22-24 The temperature range in degrees Celsius that buildings typically reach during demand management activities. Should temperatures exceed that range, building occupants are encouraged to contact Client Services (ext. 83304).

500 The amount of power in kilo-watts (kW) that tried and true conservation efforts (such as turning off lights and lowering blinds) can save.

16 The average number of times each year the air conditioning is reduced as a result of demand management activities.

23,046 The amount of energy in mega-watts (MW) consumed by Ontarians during this year’s highest peak hour (July 5, 2018).
If there was one thing for the campus community to know about Demand Management, it is that Facilities Management (FM) couldn’t do it without them.

Each year, Western faces multi-million dollar demand fees on a multi-million dollar energy bill. In order to mitigate a portion of those fees, Western strategically targets days in which provincial demand is highest and reduces energy consumption on campus. The five hours of the year when Ontario’s demand is highest are used to determine the fees that each large energy user will pay for their portion of demand. The lower Western’s contribution to the total, the lower the fees.

Typically, demand targets are met by intermittent cycling of air handling units accompanied by tried and true energy-zapping measures, such as turning off lights and lowering blinds. By reducing cooling, Facilities Management can shave off roughly four megawatts of power. That’s the equivalent amount of energy to run 250 average-sized homes.

The remainder of the target is achieved with the active efforts of the campus community. Without building occupants chipping in and lowering consumption, the program would be less successful and may require deeper energy cuts to the cooling services. Building occupant actions, as simple as turning out lights and lowering blinds, can account for a 500kW reduction in energy consumption on campus. A reduction of that scale equates to savings of tens of thousands of dollars during peak days.

Top five things the campus community should know about Demand Management

  1. Last year, Western avoided $2.5 million in demand fees through strategic reduction efforts. Since beginning the targeted conservation measures in 2012, the University has shed more than $10 million in energy costs. The total is expected to jump again with an anticipated savings of $2+ million by the end of this year.
  2. The savings bolster the central budget, funding anything from operations to capital projects to research initiatives. The savings can be viewed from the perspective of money not wasted on paying for energy is available to support the projects that extend the mission of the University.
  3. Demand Management typically occurs twelve days of each year and most often during the summer afternoons. This past summer reported an abnormal number of heat waves and very little precipitation, leading to upwards of 20 days of demand load shedding.
  4. In some cases, project and maintenance work unrelated to demand management can result in warmer than usual building temperatures. This was evident in some buildings on campus this summer. Repairs and renovations in a number of locations required air handling units to be shut down, compounding the effects of energy reduction efforts. Service interruptions can be found online:
  5. Investments have been made to install better building controls, making building temperatures more comfortable for occupants during conservation measures. For example, new automated controls will improve Western’s response to and recovery from cooling reductions.

Engaged, high-demand partners make a difference

During the academic year, targeted reductions to air conditioning are more difficult as buildings are heavily occupied. FM’s large energy consuming partners, such as those managing buildings and research in Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel, Social Science, West Valley, Biotron, and SharcNet support Demand Management activities. With enough lead time, these units reschedule the use of high consumption equipment to off-peak hours. The Wind Tunnel, for example, can draw as much as one megawatt from the grid when operating at full capacity, equating to nearly 5% of Western’s total consumption.

The Demand Management team continues to develop strategies for reducing the institution’s piece of the demand fee pie. Being recognized as a leader since the introduction of Global Adjustment charges, Western has improved its building automation system by leaps and bounds. As more buildings are commissioned and higher intensity equipment is installed to support Western’s research commitment, the team needs to stay ahead and work with the campus community just to break even.

More information is available on FMs dedicated Demand Management web page;

Western is the first University recognized by Bee City Canada

Beekeeper Rick Huismann 
Western University is buzzing with excitement of being Bee City Canada’s first Bee University Campus in Canada!

The Bee City designation is given to communities that establish and maintain healthy pollinator habitat within their boundaries and includes cities, First Nations, businesses, and schools. To be recognized, participants are committed to:
  • Creating, maintaining and/or improving pollinator habitat
  • Educating their community about the importance of pollinators
  • Celebrating pollinators during International Pollinator Week or at other times

Creating and maintaining and/or improving pollinator habitat
With over 422 acres, the Western University campus provides many opportunities for pollinator friendly spaces and plants to be integrated. Over the next 5 years, several of Western’s gardens and manicured areas will include more native plant species and plants. Along with already established pollinator friendly trees, Landscape Services has begun the process by increasing plantings of ironweed, liatris, and Joe Pye weed.
Similarly, Western’s Indigenous Studies students have created a medicinal garden on campus. The garden features many native plants sought by pollinators.

Educating the community about the importance of pollinators
Another key component of the designation includes educating the campus community on the benefits of being bee friendly. Our Green campus is an ongoing lecture series at Western. This coming academic year, the lecture series will include a module focusing on pollinators. Participants will learn about care for native plants and enticing habitat, including creating Bee Condos.

Celebrating pollinators during International Pollinator Week
Western is hosting a Pollinator Week during the academic year, with the goal of engaging students, staff, and faculty.  The week will be highlighted by a booth on campus, interactive information about pollinators and current campus initiatives, and social media updates. Participants may also sample or buy pollinator friendly products, such as Great Hall Catering’s honey, harvested from beehives on campus.

To date, Bee City Canada recognizes the participation of 16 cities, 8 businesses, and 15 schools. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Battery-powered equipment introduced on nation's most beautiful campus

This summer, Western’s Landscape Services takes its first foray into battery powered equipment. Two grass trimmers, a push mower, and two leaf blowers have been added to the team’s tool crib.

The equipment is quieter, generates zero emissions and incorporates improved ergonomics, including less vibration.

They are a good fit for grounds such as Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre, which hosts activities throughout the summer, including conferences, weddings and business events.

“Keeping a low profile at this property goes a long way, allowing us to provide better service for the occupants and guests with minimal interruption,” says Mike Lunau, Manager, Landscape Services.

The new pieces of landscaping gear use the same battery power packs from one another and can be swapped between the units. The operators have already reported quick charging times and there is no down time between charges.

The tools that require more juice, such as the blowers, also have a large capacity battery backpack. It is estimated that the team should be able to run the battery-powered tools to complete the same tasks as gas-powered counterparts.

”We do not want to rush into a full conversion to battery powered tools until we are sure they can meet our operational needs,” says Lunau. “However, it does fit nicely with the sustainability goals of the university and our ongoing role as stewards of the natural environment.”

The new equipment appears to check the boxes on a number of the team’s needs. There is some evidence from similar landscape services operations to suggest that battery powered equipment can take the place of gas powered units. For example, Harvard has started the conversion of their operation away from gas powered equivalents. Some Ontario universities are incorporating them into their landscape units, as well.

There appears to be a need to retain some gas-powered tools. Primarily, the battery-powered equipment is not ideal in rainy conditions and would result in a full stop of landscape operations on wet days.

According to Lunau, the timing is right for the University to begin introducing new, higher tech options. Battery-powered tools are becoming more common place and the market is taking shape. As a result, landscape equipment manufacturers are providing more options that are more affordable and more reliable than ever. 

“We will evaluate the new tools and if they continue to meet our needs, we will look to acquire more battery powered gear in the future.”

Monday, October 9, 2017

What you need to know for the upcoming heating season

As we move from the Summer into the Fall, there are four key messages FM would like to share around building temperatures and occupancy comfort:

  • Mid-term exams run the show. The season changes around mid-terms and keeping campus comfortable remains a top priority for the Division. High-volume buildings like Weldon, UCC, and Nat Sci are susceptible to above average temperatures during warmer weather. Facilities Management works closely with building managers to provide the best studying and exam space.
  • Once we switch to heating, we cannot switch back to cooling. The systems to heat and cool the university are different. The air conditioning equipment is drained of chilled water, in order to prevent pipes freezing and bursting. Temperatures below zero threaten these pipes and therefore once the cold weather rolls in, Facilities Management must decommission cooling systems. They will only be recommission when the warmer weather arrives in the Spring. Unfortunately, if there is a hot day before then, the campus will not be able to react with air conditioning.
  • Fluctuating temperatures in the Fall will make it tough to hit thermostat set points in all nine million square feet of occupied space on campus. This is a big place and getting each classroom or office perfectly comfortable, is difficult even when the outdoor air temperatures are static. Seasonal changes in humidity, heat waves and cold snaps, and occupancy volumes add to the challenge.
  • The good news - We are here to help! Tweeters are encouraged to drop us a tweet and report on abnormal conditions @westernuFM
For more information on the 'shoulder season', check out our standing story and related facts;

Friday, September 29, 2017

National Forest Week: What's your favourite tree?

Thanks for celebrating National Forest Week with us! We've spent the entire week telling you our stories and now it's your turn.

Send out a Tweet or Instagram using #WesternUGrowsOnTrees with a pic of your favourite tree on campus and the story of it's significance to you.

I'll get you started...

The pink flowers in this picture are cherry blossoms. The tree usually blooms in May along with a few others in the Medway-Sydenham courtyard. For students, May means study, exam, home with no time to 'stop and smell the flowers'. And for non-residents of Medway-Sydenham Hall, this courtyard is very much hidden from the bustle of core campus.

And as beautiful as the campus is, I always thought it a shame that the campus community will rarely experience some of the most incredible aspects of our natural environment on campus.

So I take every opportunity - including this one - to share the aesthetic charm that is tucked away in the courtyard. Imagine living in Medway-Sydenham Hall, waking up in the morning, looking out your window and seeing this vibrant pink array contrasted by a seemingly infinite blue sky.

Truly awesome and definitely one of my favs. What's yours?

- Posted by Brandon on behalf of Facilities Management.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

National Forest Week: Discovering our very own arboretum

Biology Dept. - Dr. W. Sherwood Fox
Named after Western's third President, Dr. W. Sherwood Fox, the Sherwood Fox Arboretum was established in 1981 by then president, Dr. George Connell. Fox was an avid botanist, noting that Southwestern Ontario's abundance of tulip trees is what lured him to Western's campus.

The arboretum is a botanical garden of trees and shrubs cultivated for scientific, conservation, education and ornamental purposes. The Sherwood Fox Arboretum encompasses all the planted trees and shrubs on campus. Because of the vast number of species found in such close proximity, it plays an important role in education and research. Some of the trees are even labelled for easy identification.

The Arboretum is home to a growing number of species that can thrive in the Great Lakes Lowlands climate region and there is a renewed focus to plant native species. The current arboretum inventory includes roughly 2,400 trees of 350 species. Facilities Management's Landscape Services team maintains the grounds and manages the health and well-being of plants and trees on campus.

The best way to experience the natural environment at Western is to follow the Walking Tour Map. Recently updated for the Global Challenge, the self-guided tour takes adventurers to the far ends of campus, offering facts on areas of significance along the way. Download the Walking Tour Map.

Be sure to take a break and walk through Canada's most beautiful campus. It is even more spectacular when the leaves begin to change colour in Autumn.

Landscape Services:
Walking Tour Map:
Department of Biology Sherwood Fox Arboretum information: