If you think that the design of an HVAC system, utilizing primary energy derived from a geoexchange source, is usually overly complex and is often unsuccessful in reducing energy consumption or Greenhouse Gases emissions, this mechanical design by Falcon Engineering will surprise you!


The ‘dream’ of a newly designed public school featuring an affordable HVAC system, with characteristics of very low energy consumption, very low volumes of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emissions, and which performs consistently and reliably with simple operations and reduced learning curve for operational personnel, is now a reality. Falcon Engineering’s Mechanical Engineering department has achieved that dream, and its latest iteration is constructed within School District 23’s Canyon Falls Middle School in Kelowna, BC. Canyon Falls Middle School was completed in 2019 and, following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and protocols, has now performed through a full school educational year operation.

Canyon Falls HVAC design

The HVAC system at Canyon Falls needed to meet the School District’s 21st Century Learning Concepts within its mechanical design. It demands that the HVAC system not only serves the ventilation and comfort requirements of each individual classroom, gymnasium, and support spaces, but also must meet the demands imposed by flexible wall structures, larger occupant loads within enlarged spaces, and cooperative learning opportunities (classes melded temporarily to cooperate in lessons and experiences).

Additionally, School District 23 required the HVAC engineering design to meet the Province of BC’s carbon emissions goals, resulting in the new school being designed to meet LEED Gold Standards.

The resultant HVAC design by Falcon’s Mechanical Design Group, led by Andrew Springer, P. Eng., is based on a four-pipe fan coil system, featuring primary energy drawn from a vertical loop geoexchange system, also designed by Falcon. The design of the geoexchange system itself encountered potentially difficult ground conditions, so the Energy Engineering Group at Falcon elected an innovative design concept where a smaller number of deeper boreholes were employed to increase capacity per unit of borehole length.

HVAC design system

The HVAC thermal plant design includes the use of a heat recovery chiller featuring unique and custom control sequences designed jointly by Falcon and the equipment manufacturer. This measure reduced the resultant plant complexity and resulted in a system that operates efficiently and without surprises for plant operators and maintainers.

 Outdoor air systems feature the use of reversing flow heat recovery equipment, benefitting from efficient waste heat extraction and recovery, as well as the elimination of inherent condensation and icing problems. 

Finally, Falcon’s Electrical Engineering design included a complete LED lighting installation, along with addressable lighting controls. The resultant lighting system operates at 35% less consumption than required by Building Code Requirements, and the installed lighting control system offers even greater energy savings in the future. A solar photovoltaic array, installed on the roof of the multipurpose atrium, rounds out the energy-conserving and GHG-avoiding design, to further offset the building’s electricity consumption.

Energy Conservation and GHG Emissions

Recently reported Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of Canyon Falls indicates a Building Energy Performance Indicator (BEPI) of 61ekWh/m2yr of the combined total of natural gas and electricity consumption. This figure is well below the Canadian average BEPI of 244ekWh/m2yr for K-12 schools.

Electricity consumption, alone, is reported to be 52 kWh/m2yr which is the lowest in the District, where the District-wide average is 112 kWh/m2yr. This demonstrates, too, that the natural gas component of the total EUI is just 9ekWh/m2yr, largely representing domestic hot water energy consumption, and that performance, in turn, demonstrates the value of deriving the primary energy for the HVAC design from a successful geoexchange system.

Canyon Falls electricity consumption

GHG emissions are reported at 19 tonnes of CO2e/yr, or 2 kg/m2yr. And compared to School District 23 averages, Canyon Falls’ additional carbon reduction is equivalent to 37 passenger cars off the road each year, or to the planting and growth of 28,700 trees over 10 years.

How the HVAC Design Supports the School District’s 21st-Century Learning Concepts

HVAC system

As HVAC designers and users will well appreciate, designing an HVAC system to meet standard requirements for individual regular classrooms and to also meet the ventilation and comfort (temperature) requirements of a much larger area when flexible walls are moved apart, suggests the use of a complex HVAC system and suggests, also, that occupants might have to tolerate sub-standard performance characteristics in one classroom configuration or another. The flexible walls between classrooms and multi-use areas are integral to the 21st Century Learning Concepts of School District 23, for periodically accommodating larger groups of school children collaborating within the enlarged spaces normally separated by walls.

Not so, with this HVAC engineering design by Falcon! The four-pipe fan coil systems in each classroom, multi-use area, and other occupancies, supports the varying demands imposed by alternate wall configurations, providing reliable and comfortable conditions whether configured in standard classroom configuration, or larger collaboration configurations.

A Reliable and Simple HVAC Design

The installation of the HVAC design by Falcon at Canyon Falls has been described by School District 23 operators and maintainers as easy to understand, easy to maintain, and simple to operate. Utilizing innovations in design, as described above, collaborations with equipment manufacturers, and a purposeful drive for simplicity in design, Falcon has delivered an HVAC engineering design that meets (maybe even exceeds) the needs and expectations of the School District’s system operators and maintainers.

The School District’s Point of View

Mr. Harold Schock, Central Okanagan Public Schools’ Energy & Sustainability Manager, when asked for his opinions on the statements within this blog, had these comments to make:

“[The Province of] BC has legislated targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 2007 levels by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 80% by 2050. The Province also has an interim target to reduce emissions by 16% by 2025. At Canyon Falls Middle School (CFMS), [the design] has performed at the highest level of GHG avoidance. Meeting and exceeding the Provincial challenge of 80% GHG reduction target without adding to the total utility cost.”

Further, Mr. Schock reported that “At CFMS, total energy needed for a full year [of operation] is only 0.40Gj/m2. CFMS has earned an Energy Star Rating of 100% for three years in a row.”

And Mr. Schock ended his comments with the following statement, “Falcon Engineering Team’s primary focus [in the CFMS design] is to move heat energy efficiently. Rather than creating & wasting heat energy.”


Going back to the opening statement of implied complexity of HVAC designs utilizing geoexchange as their primary energy source, Falcon Engineering’s Mechanical Engineering Group has demonstrated at a variety of projects, including Canyon Falls Middle School, that their systems design may be more factually described as “high on the sophistication scale, while low on the complexity scale.” It is this sophistication in design that has resulted in an overall successful consumption-reducing, GHG-avoiding, comfortable and reliable system, designed to be flexible for school occupants and simultaneously easily operated and maintained by School District 23 employees over the lives of the systems within the school. All that, plus energy conservation and Greenhouse Gases emissions reductions, too!

If you would like to find out how we can help with the HVAC design for your project, get in contact by using our contact page.

Water pumps

You can find out more about our Energy Engineering services here and more about our team.

If you have questions about our experience or the HVAC system work we do, get in contact by using our contact page.

Want to learn more about energy engineering? Check out some of our other blogs!

 An inquisitive, perceptive, and innovative engineering approach by Falcon Engineering helped Royal Roads University avoid unnecessary construction costs, as well as disruptive work, in the design for a geoexchange ground coupling system for the Dogwood Auditorium.

The Project

A “geoexchange system” may sound complex, but it is really as simple as its name implies: exchanging “heat” from earth materials or groundwater below the earth’s surface with the building’s HVAC systems, so as to provide heating and cooling energy, all without consuming fossil fuels or adding to the building’s Carbon Emissions. Our blog, An Introduction To Geoexchange, gives an overview of geoexchange engineering systems.

Falcon’s Energy Engineering team has completed just such a project at the Dogwood Auditorium at Royal Roads University, near Victoria BC.

The Royal Roads Campus is situated at the base of a prominent escarpment slope. Areas on campus along the base of the slope have high water tables and, in some areas of the Royal Roads campus, footing interceptor drains are required to control shallow groundwater to protect buildings and infrastructure. Water intercepted by these drains throughout the year is collected and conveyed by pipeline as stormwater discharge. Several years ago, the campus irrigation system was outfitted to use water from the interceptor drains as the main source of water for grounds irrigation to make beneficial use of the intercepted water.

When a project arose to convert the swimming pool (originally built in the late 1950s for the former military college) to a new purpose, the Royal Roads planners wanted to ensure that reducing carbon emissions was an important component of the project plan and budget.

Royal Roads University selected Falcon’s Energy Engineering team, under a competitive RFP process, to examine the natural setting and propose a solution for an alternate energy system to be applied at the legacy building, repurposed as the Dogwood Auditorium.

The project to regenerate the building for learning and events space was opened in its new format in Spring 2021, including the geoexchange heating and cooling system. The system resulted in significantly reduced Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions for the Dogwood Auditorium, while providing the energy for comfort conditions throughout the year, with little reliance (peak heating) on fossil fuel energy.

From a Site Visit to Design of the Innovative Geoexchange System

Falcon was selected to design the new geoexchange ground heat exchange (GHX) system (HVAC design was already awarded to another firm), and in the summer and fall of 2019, conducted a thorough site-specific Geoexchange Suitability Assessment (GSA) to investigate the most suitable geoexchange options for the project site. The initial concept envisioned by Royal Roads University (RRU) included an open-loop water well geoexchange system, whereby groundwater would be pumped from one or more extraction wells from which the groundwater would be passed through a heat exchanger, and subsequently re-injected to the ground by one or more injection wells.

However, through the process of conducting the GSA, Falcon became aware of the presence of the significant drain water discharge. Exploratory investigations by Falcon of rushing water in manholes near the prospective Dogwood Auditorium led to the reveal of an existing, readily available energy source, already “plumbed” near the surface.

Falcon conducted further investigations and analysis to establish that the drainage water would be of sufficient flow quantity, and at a satisfactory temperature throughout a given year, before committing to the client that the drainage water would serve as a suitable and reliable ground source coupling for the geoexchange system.

Data from Environment Canada of seasonal climate norms over a period of approximately 30 years was critical to the analysis. Flow rates of the drainage water were measured over the spring and summer of 2019 and added to anecdotal information from the RRU Operators of the irrigation system. Together, these data sets were applied to a calculated “stress test” to ascertain the values of the drain water system as a source of energy to moderate indoor temperatures of the Dogwood Auditorium, as well as to ascertain the likely impacts of the “heat rejection” back into the drain water system during each of the four seasons. The combined analysis demonstrated that this drain water system could be relied upon as an appropriate energy source for heating and cooling the Dogwood Auditorium, and that heat rejection from the Dogwood Auditorium would not deleteriously affect the adjacent ocean water temperatures, to which the drain water from RRU flows.

Thus, Falcon was able to demonstrate the values of the proposed ground source coupling to the geoexchange system and was also able to demonstrate that the environmental impacts of using the ground source coupling (the drain water system) would not impose undesirable impacts (such as excessively warm temperatures) on the drain water or the ocean water.

With any type of retrofit or repurposing project, unexpected findings and conditions are prone to be discovered and this project was no exception. Although the intercepted groundwater-derived drain water had been used for many years by the irrigation system without any history of debris or sedimentation problems, new flows were recently added to the drain water system that included contributions from rooftop drainage. In many geographic locations, rooftop drainage would not pose significant problems; however, on the heavily treed RRU campus, rooftop drainage can be laden with organic debris. In this case, organic debris in the form of evergreen needles and other organics, entered the drain water system from the new sources and contributed to maintenance concerns for both the existing irrigation system and the new geoexchange system. A simple screen and diversion modification was implemented by the Project Civil Engineer in Fall 2021 and seems to be working effectively. Ongoing monitoring is warranted and perhaps additional modifications may be required.

An Energy Efficient Building System

The portion of the heating load served by ground source heat pumps for the Geoexchange System, employing energy derived from the flows of the drain water system existing on campus, results in a 98% reduction in emitted CO2e as compared to the “base case” of standard naturally aspirated boiler and standard air handling systems (commonly found in buildings of that age and utility).

Combined with the relatively low costs of drawing energy from the existing groundwater drainage system, when compared to employing a drilled well system and open or closed loop geoexchange system piping, the resultant system provided the client with:

  • a lower capital cost
  • very low energy consumption characteristics in operation
  • very low GHG emissions,
  • and comfortable conditions throughout the year.
construction of Dogwood Auditorium

A win for the client, a credit to the design engineers and installation contractors, and a credit to the institution (Royal Roads University) who commissioned the project.

Aligning with the Royal Roads University Climate Action Plan

The project to repurpose the former swimming pool at RRU into what is now known as the Dogwood Auditorium reflects the best in contemporary construction and facilities planning. As the Royal Roads University Climate Action Plan calls for significant GHG reductions by 2035, it was seen by University planners as an important aspect of the new use of this existing building that it would not add to the University’s GHG emissions, while simultaneously providing a much-needed events and learning space for the campus.

Consequently, as the geoexchange system delivers on the heating and cooling needs of the Dogwood Auditorium, it does not add CO2e liabilities for RRU, and provides modern ventilation and comfort conditions even when fully occupied by Convocation Ceremonies, University staff meetings, student study areas, and community events. 

From an Aged Facility to a State-of-the-Art Auditorium

Royal Roads University and Durwest Construction set out with a vision to repurpose an aged facility and transform it into a state-of-the art auditorium. The level of innovation and commitment to sustainable transformation is a remarkable and defining feature of the redevelopment project. Re-purposing of the drain water, that would otherwise have been wasted, into an energy source seemed to mesh well within the vision of this type of transformation. 

As a standard of practice at Falcon Engineering, we emphasize the importance for careful consideration of both the setting- and the building-specific features of a project, to thoroughly examine opportunities for development of a low carbon energy system. In the case of the geoexchange ground coupling at RRU Dogwood Auditorium, this standard of practice ensured that the opportunities inherent in the existing drain water system were recognized early in the investigation process, and subsequently led to an affordable and successful geoexchange system to serve the Dogwood Auditorium. Falcon Engineering feels honoured to have played a role on this team.

You can find out more about our Energy Engineering services here and more about our team.

If you have questions about our experience or the geoexchange work we do, get in contact by using our contact page.

Want to learn more about energy engineering? Check out some of our other blogs!

By Loïc Letailleur, P.Eng.

Four years ago, we used to play a game as a family while driving around – who could spot the next electric car? They were rare and sometimes you would go days without seeing one. Now, they are everywhere, every day, no matter which city or small town you are in. Most people likely don’t realize how many there are because they don’t all stand out (they aren’t just Tesla’s)! 

With the rapid adoption of electric vehicles comes the requirement for charging infrastructure. There are charging speeds (is the limiter of the vehicle or the charger), people’s driving habits and also public expectations. Without getting into the psychology of range anxiety or other concerns, let’s review some of the key points related to electric vehicle (EV) charging.

What are the different levels of Electric Vehicle Charging?

At Falcon, we provide capital planning services for all types of buildings. As a unique engineering firm, we have developed a proprietary costing database. We regularly update this database with our retrofit projects to provide new and existing clients with a detailed capital plan for their upcoming projects. We are even able to break budgets into project phases for comprehensive planning purposes.

  • Level 1 – Basic 120V wall outlet (15 or 20 Amp)
    • This will charge the average EV at approximately 8km/hr.
  • Level 2 – AC charger, 208/240V from 15A to 80A of delivered energy
    • This will charge the average EV at 15-80km/hr.
  • Level 3 – DC fast charger, from 20KW to 350KW
    • This can reach charging speeds over 1,000km/hr.
    • It bypasses the inverter in the vehicle.
    • Vehicles have limits to what they can accept for charge (not many can take 350KW).

What are the Electric Vehicle Charging Standards and how do they differ?

There is one Level 2 charging standard globally and it is the J1772 plug.  All vehicles have this outlet except for Tesla, which comes with an adapter.

Globally, there are three major Level 3 charging standards:

  • Tesla – Proprietary charger plug except in the EU.  The Supercharger network in the USA is slated to be opened to other vehicles, though this will require a special adapter.
  • Chademo – Asian standard, was adopted early by Nissan – many fast chargers will include a Chademo connector. Not many vehicles require this standard.
  • CCS – European standard, has become the global standard. It is the plug included in the majority of vehicles (except Tesla).

When assessing which charging level you will most frequently use, you need to assess the following factors:

  • What is your daily distance travelled?
  • Do you have access to charging at your residence? And what level?

The majority of individuals will drive less than 50 km per day, and their vehicle is parked for a minimum of 8 hrs overnight. This means for those fortunate enough to have access to charging at home, a simple Level 1 charger that will provide 8km/hr (60+ km of range overnight) is sufficient. 

electric vehicle charging map for British Columbia
Image Source – Google Maps

A Level 2 charger at home will allow for more rapid charging or allow for the charging to occur during off-peak hours (maybe not start charging until 0100 – with a time of day utility billing coming soon this may be advantageous).  On the rare occasion that you have returned from a long road trip with a nearly empty battery, you still don’t need to worry as overnight you will charge enough for the next typical driving day. If back-to-back extended trips are required, then a visit to a public Level 3 charger is an easy way to boost up the available range.

For individuals who do not have access to charging at their home, Level 3 charging will be similar to stopping at the gas station and will have to be done approximately once a week depending on the range of the car and the distances covered.

What about at Work?

ev charging system

One of the most frequent questions we are asked by Clients is should electric vehicle charging be provided at the workplace? To answer this, it is important to go back to the previous analysis of daily driving habits.  If individuals have access to charging, then it would be rare that needing to charge at the workplace (or the mall) would be required.  Even for people without home access to charging, the rapid increase in the number of public fast charging stations allows for easy access to charging needs people may have.  I would consider the availability of workplace charging a perk and not a necessity.

The exception to this is for fleet vehicles.

I am a Developer and What Should I Do?

In Part II of Electrical Vehicle Charging our engineering team will discuss the options for both existing and new multi-family and mixed-use buildings. 

Do you have any questions? Contact our skilled engineering team today and we can answer all your electrical engineering questions. 

Need to learn more about our engineering services? Visit our integrated engineering services page.

Want to learn more about electrical engineering? Check out some of our other blogs!

Are you wondering how to get the right retrofit for your project?

Our team of interdisciplinary engineers can provide customized niche mechanical engineering solutions for projects ranging from HVAC design to deep energy retrofits. Our team has a proven track record of results on these projects and are well versed in requirements for different client types. We bring a commitment to service that extends through design, construction, and post-construction activities.

Read on as we elaborate on some of our niche mechanical and industrial engineering services that set us apart from other engineering companies:

Capital Planning

At Falcon, we provide capital planning services for all types of buildings. As a unique engineering firm, we have developed a proprietary costing database. We regularly update this database with our retrofit projects to provide new and existing clients with a detailed capital plan for their upcoming projects. We are even able to break budgets into project phases for comprehensive planning purposes.

Mechanical engineering room


Design is an integral part of the engineering and construction phase of your project. We are experienced with tailoring bespoke solutions that best suit

the need of your project’s purpose and building type. Some of our niche design services include:

Lifecycle-Centered Design. Building and engineering represent only a fraction of the overall lifecycle costs of a mechanical project. With this in mind, we take an approach that is not focused solely on the installation costs of a project. We include operating cost considerations like energy efficiency, ease of maintenance, reliability, and planning for replacements at the end of service life. Our lifecycle-centered design approach applies to all our projects.

Heat Pump Thermal Plant Design. We have developed several bespoke heat pump and heat recovery thermal plant designs. These archetypal systems can be adapted and modified to fit the needs of many building types and configurations. The systems have been designed to eliminate unnecessary complexity, undue costs, and to reduce the maintenance burden.


We know that every project has a specific purpose with distinct needs to suit the environment in which it operates. We have expertise in planning, managing, and implementing large-scale mechanical retrofits. We offer retrofits in the following areas:

Deep Energy Retrofits. The goal of deep energy retrofits is to provide systems that not only increase energy efficiency but also renew aging equipment to improve overall effectiveness and reliability. Often this involves the replacement of major components and systems. These retrofits often need to be carefully planned and phased in to keep the facility as operational as possible throughout the process

Conventional Energy Retrofits. If you don’t need a large-scale retrofit, our team is also able to replace building mechanical systems on a component-by-component basis. These could consist of boiler upgrades, terminal equipment replacement, and control system upgrades. We replace aging equipment or systems to optimize lifecycle costs and reliability.

Business showing their mechanical engineering systems

Prime Consulting. Having worked with both private and public institutions, we are experienced in consulting on contract awards for facility upgrades or new system implementation. Depending on the project, we can provide full design services as well as managing tendering, providing recommendations for contract award, and administering the construction contract throughout the implementation phase. Our experience with many different building types makes us well versed in the different requirements for all client types.

Industrial and Clean Facilities

At Falcon, we have developed specialist expertise for industrial buildings. From ventilation systems to specialty water system design, our team will develop the right solution for your facility. Some of our specialized areas include:

  • Precision environmental control
  • Clean-room filtration and contaminant control
  • Laboratory ventilation
  • Specialty exhaust and ventilation systems
  • Specialty process piping systems
  • Compressed air system design
  • Process heating and cooling
  • Process water system design
Mechanical room

Is it time for a retrofit for your facility or building?

We are confident that our team will deliver designs that will add the right components to your facilities’ systems to increase reliability and efficiency. Our engineering professionals are seasoned experts, who know how to create and implement a lifecycle-centered approach to your system upgrade. You can guarantee practical and innovative solutions, designed for your specific needs.

Have questions about a project? Contact us!

Need to learn more about our services? Visit our integrated services page.

Want to learn more about mechanical engineering? Check out some of our other blogs!

There is no doubt that climate change is one of the biggest issues facing our society. Globally, almost 60 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses are emitted every year, while the current warming trend is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. In British Columbia alone, we have experienced havoc caused by climate change, from back-to-back years of record spring precipitation causing historic flooding followed by hot, dry summers that contributed to droughts and wildfires.

Why Now?

Since its inception, Falcon Engineering has been dedicated to providing efficient, cost-effective solutions to our clients. We have always encouraged going above and beyond Code and Regulatory baselines by showing clients not only the environmental benefits but also the economic payback over the investment of the systems. We have been fortunate to work with progressive forward-thinking clients that have seen the value in these systems, and have been part of projects that set the benchmark for low energy consumption in their respective sectors. As a firm, we wanted to look internally and see what changes we could make to demonstrate our commitment – and not just talk, but walk too!


2021 was a year of extremes in British Columbia, beginning with record-breaking high temperatures in June, which spiked at 49.6°C in Lytton, breaking the all-time highest temperature ever recorded in Canada three days in a row. What followed was a catastrophic wildfire that wiped out the entire village of Lytton, destroying the majority of buildings and killing two people. Massive wildfires burned throughout the Interior of British Columbia in the region’s worst fire season on record, with firefighters struggling to keep control and thousands of residents evacuated from their homes. The cost of wildfire suppression totalled $565 million.

After an incredibly dry and challenging summer, winter bought record-breaking rainfall, which caused severe landslides and flooding, closing off all highways from southwest BC to the Interior. Hundreds of homes were evacuated, while thousands of livestock were killed as the waters rose. The towns of Merritt, Princeton and Tulameen were decimated as their rivers flooded.    

Climate scientists have predicted that extreme weather events, such as those experienced in British Columbia in 2021, will increase in frequency and severity, bringing massive loss and disruption, as well as high costs for governments.

flood photo

climate change certified

As a leader in green, energy-efficient building systems, we are dedicated to providing sustainable energy engineering to meet our client’s needs, and our consulting teams bring skill sets that are unique amongst engineering firms. Our experience with district energy systems (such as VIU’s Mine Water District Energy System in Nanaimo), low carbon heating systems, heat recovery systems, solar photovoltaic and renewable energy generation provide a unique range of energy-efficient design options that can be tailored to our client’s projects. Drawing on our extensive portfolio of successful projects, we work closely with our clients and design teams to achieve innovative and sustainable solutions rooted in established engineering principles. 

With our commitment to helping our clients achieve the most efficient electrical and mechanical systems possible, we looked at ways our company could do more to reduce our carbon footprint. To do this, we enlisted the help of Climate Neutral.   

What Is Climate Neutral?

Climate Neutral is a nonprofit organization working with brands and consumers to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. It was launched in 2019 and now works with hundreds of companies across more than a dozen industries globally. In just three years, Climate Neutral Certified companies have measured and offset over 2,000,000 tonnes of CO2e, equivalent to over 430,000 passenger vehicles being driven for one year.

Our 2021 Carbon Footprint

We worked with Climate Neutral as we measured and offset last year’s carbon emissions and identified ways to reduce future emissions. The process to become Climate Neutral Certified is a months-long effort to measure, offset, and reduce our carbon footprint:


We measured our 2021 carbon footprint at 169 tonnes. To arrive at this number, we looked at all of the emissions created from delivering our services, including employee commuting, business travel, utility bills, paper, and computer equipment. 


We offset these emissions by purchasing verified carbon credits. These carbon credits supported a portfolio of projects including schemes that will help avoid deforestation, improve forest management, support solar power generation, and encourage bioenergy generation.


Last, but not least, we created Reduction Action Plans to help lower our emissions over the next 12-24 months, and the following are our first steps towards achieving this goal:

  1. We will reduce emissions from air and car business travel

We will write and implement a travel policy to standardize and regulate travel bookings. We will encourage staff to combine multiple projects per trip and reduce the number of in-person meetings by conducting virtual meetings.

  1. We will reduce emissions from employees commuting into the office.

We will be improving the bike storage area so that more staff can cycle to work and store their bike securely. We intend to introduce a bike-to-work incentive/sweepstake to encourage staff to walk, use public transport or cycle.

  1. We will reduce emissions from the use of paper contracts and couriers.

We have signed up with DocuSign to digitally send all our contracts in 2022. This will save paper and reduce emissions by cutting the use of couriers to deliver the physical documents.

To The Future

Falcon Engineering hopes to engage fellow consulting firms, contractors, and others in the industry to join in the commitment to reduce our impact.  The hundreds of brands certifying this year all go through the same process to measure, offset, and reduce their emissions. Together, Climate Neutral Certified companies are working to eliminate more than 1,000,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.  

At Falcon, we know we have to act now to solve a problem that we understand to be an urgent threat. We have committed to reducing our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 and our Reduction Action Plans will help in achieving this goal. Climate change requires immediate action, and we’re proud to be part of the solution.

Climate neutral certified

What are Solar Photovoltaic Systems?

A solar photovoltaic (PV) system is a composition of one or more solar panels combined with an inverter and other electrical and mechanical systems. Photons, which are packets of light from the sun, fall onto solar panels and create electric currents called photovoltaic effect.

Choosing these energy efficient options has advantages that are beneficial to both your return on investment and your environmental impact. The following article will cover some of the benefits we have seen from projects.

Environmental Longevity

Solar PV systems have long life cycles and low production costs while helping to reduce the consumption of energy.

One of our projects at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in Merritt, British Columbia, highlights the energy that can be saved by choosing the installation of solar PV systems.

Rows of solar panels on a roof

The system consists of 30 KW of installed rooftop panels. The gym roof comprises production panels with fixed racking, while the lower teaching roof consists of 4 rows of panels at different tilt angles, including one row with the ability to rotate the azimuth (angle reference to South) to allow students the ability to monitor the effects each installation variation has on overall production. Each of the demonstration rows is separately monitored in the system. Since its installation in 2018, the system has generated over 105 MWh of energy and has saved more than 41 Tons in CO2 emissions.

Read more about this project

Low Maintenance

Solar PV panels are also very low maintenance. Panels are constructed to be robust and withstand all types of weather conditions such as heavy snow, wind, sleet, and hail. Regions with high winds may require clearing of dust, but the burden is insignificant.

Easily Installed Anywhere

Middle school that was an energy engineering project

These systems can be virtually installed anywhere. At the Canyon Falls Middle School project in Kelowna, British Columbia, the panels were installed on the school’s rooftop. From rooftops to fields, these systems can be optimized to catch the right amount of energy and generate it into electricity to power schools, hospitals, multi-family residences and office buildings.

Return on Investment

One example to illustrate the return on investment of solar PV systems is the project at Naghtanqed School, a remote school in Nemiah Valley, British Columbia.

The goal of this project was to reduce the fuel usage and carbon footprint of the school.

Solar panels

This solar PV system consists of 50kW Photovoltaic panels and 108 kWHr of battery storage, which generates 137,000 kWh of electricity per year.

The estimated payback of the project is only 7.5 years, with fuel savings estimated at over 38,000 litres per year.
With PV solar systems you can expect savings from low maintenance, energy consumption optimization, and off-setting utility bills. Solar PV will be integral to the movement towards the electrification of building systems.

Are you ready for an energy-efficient system?

From schools to office buildings, solar PV is a cost-effective solution in reducing your environmental footprint while achieving better energy consumption and maximizing savings.

At Falcon Engineering we are ready to leverage our skilled electrical teams to design the perfect Photovoltaic system, optimized for your needs.

Want to talk about your project? Contact us!

Want to learn more about energy engineering? Check out some of our other blogs!

The adoption of newer and more efficient technologies is constantly changing. In the 20th century we saw this happen with oil and gas furnaces replacing coal, as they provided a cleaner and more efficient alternative for heating. Today, the transition to even cleaner heating system solutions is occurring. The demand for heat pumps, electric heaters, geoexchange and more, have increased substantially, with the aim to efficiently heat buildings while producing less carbon emissions. It’s important to understand how these new heating technologies work, and how they can benefit the right space.

Whether you are looking for heating systems in a home, public building, or industrial facility, in this blog we go through different heating system alternatives – and help build the understanding for future heating and cooling needs.

Integrated technology applications

Integrated technology applications combine energy applications in a way that leverages the benefits of different technologies (for example solar and geoexchange). It is important to consider how various energy technologies, such as HVAC systems, lighting, and envelope systems, will be integrated into the overall project. The key link in integrated technology is building design focused on energy use. This results in cost savings with strong energy optimization.

Solar PV on a roof

Air source heat pump systems

Heat pumps are the future of heating and cooling. Air pumps don’t burn fuel to heat a building but rather extract heat from the air and concentrate it for use within the building. Air source heat pumps are roughly 2 to 3 times more efficient than burning fossil fuels, such as oil or natural gas, to generate heat. 

Geoexchange heat pump systems

Geothermal heat pump systems

We broke down the concepts of geothermal heating before in a previous blog. However, to briefly explain the concept, geoexchange efficiently heats and cools buildings using energy extracted from the ground using heat pumps. What makes this heating system ideal are the results. In many applications, well-designed geoexchange systems can nearly or fully eliminate carbon emissions associated with building heating and cooling.

Geoexchange systems run on electricity and can replace your conventional heating system, avoiding the emissions that come from burning fuel.

Ground source heat pumps extract heat from the ground and are one of the most efficient ways to heat your home.

“In fact, they can reduce utility bills by 70 percent over conventional systems, and they’re extremely reliable, with in-ground components that can last 50 years” (Sense, 2020). While they do have a high installation cost, they are also incredibly reliable systems.

The team at Falcon Engineering was able to assist with mechanical design for Crawford Bay Elementary-Secondary School back in 2009.

This project included a ground source heat pump which provided extensive heat recovery opportunities. Our engineering team worked with this client to provide a long-term heating solution.

mechanical engineering project


At Falcon Engineering, we have the experience to give our clients low carbon energy strategies to help guide their decision-making today, for achieving compatibility with tomorrow’s expectations. Our engineering services allow us to evolve with changing technologies to give our clients the best heating system solutions.

Learn more about our previous heating system projects here.

Want to learn more about energy engineering? Check out some of our other blogs!


Renewable power is an ever-growing innovation with the goal to bring down costs and deliver on the promise of a “clean energy future”. In Canada, this delivery of a clean future is broken into two main low carbon electricity generating energy sources: wind and solar, which are replacing “dirty” fossil fuels. While it’s increasingly important we transition into renewable energy, it is important to carefully consider a full range of merits and drawbacks associated with all forms of renewable energy, whether emissions associated with biomass energy systems, loss of wildlife habitat associated with large hydroelectric dams, or wildlife risks associated with wind generating installations.

What is Renewable Energy?

Simply put, renewable energy, also known as clean energy, is derived from natural processes that are replenished at a rate that is equal to or faster than the rate at which they are consumed.

There are various forms of renewable energy, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, ocean resources, solid biomass, and liquid biofuels. Each type of renewable energy contributes in a different way, and each technology can be integrated in a way that is often combined with other technologies to leverage the merits of each technology while managing their shortfalls to achieve improved performance and resiliency.

Renewable energy windmills

These emerging technology applications harness the power of nature for transportation, heating, lighting and so much more. It has developed due to the growing demand for less costly and more reliable energy alternatives to dirtier energy sources such as coal and fracked gas. Through innovation, the expansion of renewables has accelerated, and communities of all sizes are adopting clean energy. Renewable energy continues to grow, from rooftop solar panels to giant offshore wind farms, and countries are adapting to become more secure, safe, and better integrated each day.

Solar Energy

Our journey with solar energy has been ongoing for years as humans have been harnessing that energy to grow crops, stay warm and dry foods – although our process has changed. Today we heat homes, power devices and warm our water. Even more interesting, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “more energy from the sun falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year”, illustrating the scale of opportunity for solar as a renewable resource.

Solar photovoltaics

Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity. “Solar photovoltaics (PV) are rapidly becoming an economical, renewable technology to harness renewable energy from the sun” (Government of Canada, 2020). Distributed solar energy generates energy for homes and local businesses, either through rooftop panels or community projects that can power an entire neighborhood. 

Solar energy does not produce greenhouse gases or air pollutants. Additionally, solar panels result in minimal environmental impacts beyond that of the manufacturing process.

Case Study: Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, Merritt, B.C

In 2018, the team at Falcon Engineering designed and supervised the installation of solar photovoltaic arrays to maximize energy production.

The gymnasium roof had a production array while, on the classroom block roof, an array was installed with 4 rows of panels: 3 rows at different tilt angles, and the fourth that had the ability to rotate its orientation (azimuth). Each row is separately metered and with power optimizers on each panel, so students can monitor in real-time the effects each installation has on the production of energy.

Since its installation in July 2018, the system has generated over 82 MWh of energy and has saved more than 32 tons in CO2 emissions – which is an incredible result!

PV Solar panels

Explore more of our previous projects, including our renewable energy projects here.


Falcon is a leader in the development and innovation of green, energy-efficient building systems. The team at Falcon provides electrical solutions for renewable energy, security systems, lighting design, and medium-voltage power. Led by our Principals Bruce Candline, Kent Galloway, Loïc Letailleur and Dan Le Blanc, our electrical engineering practice is the largest within the BC Interior.

If you have questions about our experience or the work we do with renewable energy sources, get in contact by using our contact page.

Want to learn more about energy engineering? Check out some of our other blogs!


If someone asked you to name the elements of a sprinkler system, could you do it? You’ve most likely seen certain elements before; on a basic level, there are sprinkler heads, piping, and valves – but there is so much more! A sprinkler system is designed to control or extinguish fires in the early stages, making it easier and safer for building occupants to exit the building, and for firefighters to extinguish any fire that remains. 

Beyond the importance of having a fire sprinkler system, an efficient layout/design is required to allow for cost control and high performance. The variations in building design, and the coordination needed based on components within the building, make fire sprinklers complicated in design. However, understanding the fundamentals of sprinkler design will provide good insight into the specific needs of the project and the detail required for specifications.

Determining the Water Supply

A fire sprinkler system begins with water and having enough of it to control a fire. Most sprinkler systems are automatic, meaning human intervention isn’t necessary. Because of this, a source is required, which can include city water, ponds, rivers, reservoirs, water tanks, and more. No matter the source, it must have a sufficient capacity.

Factors that determine the capacity include: 

  • Flow Rate (Gallons per minute/GPM)
  • Pressure (Pounds per square inch/PSI)
  • Duration (How long it can maintain the required pressure & flow)
  • Flow Test (provided by nearby fire hydrants)
Picture of a fire hydrant

Water supply is fundamental in the development of a sprinkler system, no matter the building layout. 

Understanding the Building

Picture of a school main entrance

As simple as it sounds, to determine the sprinkler system required, you need to understand the building. Typically, once a contractor has been selected, the contractor then engages their engineer during construction. Unfortunately, this approach can hamper coordination between the sprinkler system and other building elements. Common questions to ask are: Is this a commercial project? Industrial? Or are there specifics required for the building?

For projects where a performance specification is not appropriate, however, our team can provide full sprinkler design services including:

  • Sprinkler head layout
  • Pipe layouts
  • Pipe sizing

Wet, Dry, or Preaction System?

Beyond the capacity and building demands, it’s necessary to determine if a wet, dry, or preaction system is required. Fire sprinkler engineering services offered by Falcon include wet and dry systems, pre-action systems, and specialty gaseous systems for mission-critical infrastructure.

Wet systems, which have pipes filled with water at all times, are the most commonly used system for buildings. Water flows when each sprinkler head reaches its design temperature and the glass element bursts, allowing a plug to drop out.

Dry systems, as the name suggests, don’t contain any water, and are pressurized with air. When a sprinkler head activates, the air is discharged, causing an automatic valve to open and allow water into the piping system. Dry systems are generally reserved for areas with freezing concerns. Lastly, there are preaction systems, where the cost of an accidental discharge would be severe, in places such as data rooms. In this system, water is held back by a preactivation valve and activation relies on a separate trigger, providing another layer of protection or control when activating water.

Fire sprinkler engineering


If there is one point we hope you take away from this, it is that fire sprinkler systems are complicated yet essential. While there are many factors to consider with these systems, evaluation, assessment, and specifications are instrumental to the performance of the system.

At Falcon Engineering, we can offer performance specifications or full design and engineering services, depending on the specific needs of the project. We are committed to providing effective system designs for mechanical projects.

Should you have any questions about how our team can help you with your mechanical projects, including Fire sprinkler engineering, get in contact by using our contact page

Check out our service offerings here

Want to learn more about mechanical engineering? Check out some of our other blogs!

What is Geoexchange?

To introduce this topic, let’s start off with an interesting fact: Anything with a temperature above absolute zero (-273°C) has heat energy in it. As well, anything warmer than absolute zero has stored energy. Geoexchange technology captures and uses stored heat from the ground for providing energy-efficient heating and cooling for buildings ranging from single family residential homes to the largest institutional and commercial buildings. What makes geothermal energy even more interesting, is that this isn’t new technology. The technology has existed for decades and has been improved, and adapted upon. With wise and thoughtful design adapted to specific site conditions, geoexchange systems can be cost-effective, and can be adapted for homes, commercial and institutional buildings, and industrial process applications.

Why is there a growing interest in Geoexchange? 

Geoexchange heating and cooling (also sometimes referred to as ground source heat pump technology, or geothermal heat pump technology) is a technology option often considered as a part of electrification strategies for decarbonizing heating loads. In many applications, well-designed geoexchange systems can eliminate, or nearly eliminate, carbon emissions associated with building heating and cooling. 

How does it work?

The geoexchange principle relies on a specific application of the refrigeration cycle for transferring heat from one place to another. By moving heat instead of converting chemical energy into heat (e.g. fossil fuel combustion), geoexchange systems can often provide space and/or process heating (and cooling) in a much more energy-efficient manner than conventional heating or cooling systems. Geoexchange heat pumps can extract energy from low-grade heat sources (at temperatures below 5°C) and “concentrate” the heat to a higher temperature for delivery to a heated environment. Hence, heat pumps can be coupled to a ground heat exchanger (often consisting of buried piping within the earth) so that the ground becomes the heat source for the system.

The energy-efficiency of a heat pump is dependent on the temperature of the source/sink that it is coupled with. In heating mode, the energy-efficiency increases as the source temperature increases. In cooling mode, the energy-efficiency increases as the rejection temperature decreases. Because the undisturbed earth temperature is warmer than the average winter air temperatures and cooler than average summer air temperatures, the ground makes for an attractive heat source for winter heating and heat sink for summer cooling.

Vernon Secondary School installing energy engineering

Geoexchange Harnesses Renewable Energy 

The ground energy harnessed by geoexchange systems is renewable energy. Most of the energy captured by geoexchange is solar energy absorbed by the earth’s crust while a smaller portion is core geothermal energy. In the geologically diverse western cordillera of BC, the core geothermal component varies from site to site and in some cases anomalously high geothermal gradients may cause the core geothermal component to be significant. Although electrical energy is required to drive the heat pumps, carefully designed geoexchange systems are capable of achieving coefficients of performance (COP) exceeding 3.5 in heating mode (COP is the ratio of the total heat delivered by the heat pumps relative to the electrical energy required to drive the heat pumps). At a COP of 3.5, 71% of the total heat delivered is renewable energy transferred from the ground and the remaining 29% is derived from grid electricity. Types of 

Ground Heat Exchangers (GHX) 

Ground heat exchangers (GHXs) can take many forms, but all forms belong to one of two broad categories:

  • Closed-loop GHX systems which rely on conductive heat transfer between the earth and a network of piping through which a heat transfer fluid is circulated in a closed-cycle. Examples of closed-loop GHX include vertical closed-loop borehole systems and horizontal trenched piping systems.
  • Open-loop GHX systems which rely on the actual transfer of groundwater or surface water through the geoexchange cycle.

The four most common types of GHX are:

  • Vertical borehole GHX – Closed-loop (V-GHX). This method involves drilling a network of boreholes that are each typically 50 to 250 m deep (depth often depending on site-specific constructability factors). Two pipes are placed in each borehole with a u-bend connection at the bottom and heat transfer fluid is circulated through the borehole network. This is the most versatile method and can be adapted to the widest range of settings. However, the vertical borehole GHX method is typically the most expensive option when other options are available.
  • Horizontal trenched GHX – Closed-loop (HT-GHX). This method involves installing heat exchange pipes in trenches that are typically 1.5 to 3.0 m deep (depending on climate and soil conditions). Without the depth dimension, the horizontal closed-loop method requires a much larger footprint area to generate the same heat exchange capacity as a drilled vertical borehole system. Consequently, horizontal systems are limited to applications where large open areas are available (such as for schools with large play fields or agricultural operations with large areas of surrounding cultivated land).
  • Horizontal directional-drilled GHX – Closed loop (HDD GHX). The horizontal directional-drilled (HDD) method involves installing heat exchange pipes in drilled horizontal boreholes that are typically 5 to 10 m below the ground surface. Because the boreholes are drilled below the surface, this method results in much less ground disturbance than the trenched method. As with the trenched horizontal systems, the horizontal closed-loop method requires a much larger footprint area to generate the same heat exchange capacity as a drilled vertical borehole system. The HDD method can be well- suited where upper soils consist of laterally continuous fine-grained (easily-drilled) soils (particularly when deeper soils are unsuitable for cost-effective vertical drilling), or where extensive surface disturbance would disfavour trenched methods.
  • Groundwater Production/Injection Well Pair – Open loop (GW-GHX). Groundwater open-loop systems typically move groundwater from a producing well (or wells) through a heat exchanger and then return the groundwater (at a lower temperature in heating mode or a higher temperature in cooling mode) to the aquifer by injection well(s). In certain settings, these systems can be very cost-effective where high rates of high-quality groundwater can be produced sustainably. However, appropriate site conditions for medium scale open-loop groundwater systems are relatively rare, and conditions suitable for large-scale open-loop groundwater systems are rarer still. Furthermore, these systems typically require more diligent attention to maintenance, incur higher maintenance costs than closed- loop systems (particularly if the groundwater is highly mineralized or is otherwise not of high quality), require careful highly site-specific design, and require a licensing process that involves consideration of affects to existing groundwater users in the area. Large GW-GHX systems may also require navigating an environmental assessment process often including groundwater flow and thermal simulation modelling if the rate of groundwater production is large (in British Columbia an environmental assessment is typically triggered for projects involving groundwater production exceeding 75 L/s).

Systems comprised of a network of vertical boreholes are the most common type of geoexchange system – but sometimes other types of systems are suited depending on site-specific setting. (Source: Natural Resources Canada)

Common Misconceptions

There is a common misconception that the temperature of the soil/rock surrounding a closed-loop GHX remains constant despite the transfer of heat in and out of the ground through the GHX. As a result, there is a widely-accepted perception that geoexchange systems always operate at a consistent performance level because they supposedly tap an “unlimited availability of heat at a constant ground temperature”. Unfortunately, this perception is false and misleading and often leads to inappropriate applications of geoexchange. In fact, the ongoing thermal interaction between the heat pump system and the closed-loop GHX causes the temperature of the soils that are thermally coupled with the GHX to fluctuate. The GHX temperature varies in response to the “rate” (power) and the cumulative “quantity” (energy) of heat extracted from (or rejected into) the earth and can be quite sensitive to the relative balance of the annual heating and cooling loads. Temperature fluctuations are damped as a function of site-specific soil thermal properties and the size and configuration of the GHX. As a general rule, the better the soil thermal properties, the bigger the GHX, and the more balanced the annual heating and cooling loads, then the more stable the GHX operating temperatures. 

Proper accounting for these relationships is important for selecting appropriate GHX option(s) and it is crucial for supporting effective and sustainable design of the selected option. 

Relative Balance of Heating and Cooling Loads 

Closed-loop type of geoexchange systems operate most effectively when they serve both heating and cooling loads. In cooling mode, the heat is transferred into the ground causing the soils in proximity to the GHX to warm and store heat. Then in the winter cooling mode the stored heat can often be re-captured from the ground for heating purposes. In this manner the heat is essentially “recycled” from season to season, resulting in considerably less strain on the GHX, and allows the GHX to behave more as a store and less as a source of heat.

installing a geoexchange system

With careful design, geoexchange systems can be designed to sustainably serve one-way heavily dominant heating loads. For closed-loop type of systems, bigger GHX systems are typically required to serve one-way loads (e.g., more boreholes or deeper boreholes), and the spacing between the boreholes needs to be significantly increased so that the GHX is in thermal connection with a much greater mass of soil from which to transfer heat. For open-loop type systems serving one-way loads, greater attention to the separation between extraction and return points is required.

Importance of the Options Analysis Step

The cost for constructing the GHX portion of geoexchange systems varies by a factor of nearly ten-fold per unit capacity. 

The large range is attributed to many factors including:

  • GHX type (different installation methods with widely varying cost).
  • Relative balance of heating loads (unbalanced loads require bigger GHX that are more expensive).
  • Site-specific soil and rock conditions (localized ground conditions can be challenging for drilling or trenching which can significantly escalate cost, and because geological and hydrogeological conditions vary more widely in BC than in other regions, this factor has a more prominent effect in BC than elsewhere).
  • Procurement processes (amount and type of information provided to bidders and the type of process used can significantly affect cost).

An objective evaluation of site-specific conditions and available site-specific options at an early stage in the planning process can help identify unique geoexchange opportunities (improving technical performance, reducing cost, or managing risk), and can help identify constraints or limitations that may impede suitability for geoexchange adoption.

What are geoexchange solutions best suited for?

Along with air-source heat pump systems, geoexchange heat pump systems will play a crucial and growing role in efforts to decarbonize building heating and cooling. Geoexchange is particularly suited in the following scenarios:

  • Colder climate locations where air-source heat pumps are unsuitable or less effective. Geoexchange can decarbonize heating in northern BC, such as Prince George and Dawson Creek.
  • Settings where the ground can be used to store rejected summer heat, or sources of waste heat, for uptake for winter heating.
  • Settings where unique cost effective opportunities for ground heat exchange are available.
  • Settings where silent outdoor operation is desired (in contrast with air-source heat pump systems that often generate considerable noise).

The Importance of a Thorough Design

While geoexchange heat pump systems aren’t particularly complex, they do require thoughtful and thorough design, and particular care in optimizing the integration of the geoexchange subsystems including:

1) Ground Heat Exchanger

2) Heat Pump Plant

3) Distribution System.

Heat pumps deliver heat differently than combustion systems and the design of the systems needs to take this into account. Falcon Engineering has developed a core expertise in optimizing heat pump performance based on careful monitoring of the performance of several dozen large institutional geoexchange heat pump systems we’ve designed. We’ve aggregated a lot of lessons learned expertise.

Case Study

In particular cases, such as the Canyon Falls Middle School in Kelowna, our team implemented geoexchange technology to heat and cool the school. The system consists of a network of 24 boreholes drilled deep into the underlying bedrock to a depth of 600 feet. Along with geoexchange, the school was equipped with solar PV panels, LED lighting, occupancy based controls, and a network automation system to reduce the energy use intensity of the school.

Canyon Falls Middle School in Kelowna

The net result is a near elimination of carbon emissions relating to the operation of this school. In this case, Falcon Engineering Ltd. provided mechanical, electrical, and energy system engineering services including energy modelling and geoexchange system design.


As a leader in green, energy efficient building systems, Falcon Engineering is well-suited to identify and implement low carbon energy solutions, including geoexchange where it is suitable, or identify other suitable low carbon alternatives for specific buildings in specific settings. At Falcon Engineering, our clients demand low carbon energy strategies to help guide their decision-making today, for achieving compatibility with tomorrow’s expectations. Reach out to us to speak with our highly qualified team of engineers, scientists and technical analysts about your geoexchange needs.

Find more information about our services here.

Want to learn more about energy engineering? Check out some of our other blogs!