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 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!

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

Conclusion

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!

References:

https://blog.sense.com/how-to-choose-your-next-heating-system

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/heating-cooling/21014980/geothermal-heat-pump-how-it-works

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.

Conclusion

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!

References:
https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-and-data/data-and-analysis/energy-data-and-analysis/energy-facts/renewable-energy-facts/20069#L7

The purpose of HVAC systems goes beyond that of just simply heating and cooling a space. The more valuable design to this system is to improve the air quality, which in turn, improves comfort to any building interior. An HVAC unit is an important mechanical feature, which, like any system, can result in some technical problems if not monitored.

For an HVAC engineer, evaluating, managing and troubleshooting the issues with HVAC is all a part of their scope. The system itself can be complicated and it is very beneficial and important to have a professional HVAC engineer regulate any large issues with your system.

However, to prevent these large issues, it’s even more responsible to have regular troubleshooting done, which in turn, can supply a lot of benefits in the long-run. 

Energy Cost Savings

Preventative maintenance holds true to most mechanical systems – meaning, that with any HVAC system, the regular maintenance you hold on your system has substantial benefits to the efficiency in how it runs. This efficiency in the energy consumption of the unit, means great energy savings, and cost savings, long-term. 

Mechanical  room with HVAC system

Avoid Costly Repairs 

HVAC engineering system

As mentioned earlier, an HVAC mechanical engineer can help regulate any large issues with the system. However, troubleshooting your system regularly can mean avoiding the expense of bringing someone in to resolve an even bigger problem. This regular maintenance can improve the lifespan of your system and overall reduce the cost of a mechanical engineer having to manage the replacements of certain components, which could be costly. 

After all, you wouldn’t go over 3,000 miles without an oil change for your car – the same analogy holds true for regular maintenance and troubleshooting on your HVAC unit. Take care of your systems, and they will continue to take care of you. 

Comfortable and Appealing Commercial Space

Just as much as you depend on your HVAC system keeping you comfortable all year round – so do your tenants or clients. Regular maintenance and troubleshooting will help your HVAC unit produce air flow that will distribute warm or cool air evenly throughout your space. 

As a property owner, it’s essential to provide a comfortable and appealing place for short and long term rentals. The same goes as a company owner, and ensuring your space is comfortable and appealing to all current and future clients. Temperature regulation is important, however, troubleshooting your HVAC system can also improve quality of life in regard to silencing noise or reducing smell that builds up in the equipment over time. 

Roof HVAC engineering unit

Conclusion

It’s not just about maintaining; it’s about getting full value and redeeming the benefits of a fully functional HVAC unit that is reliable, and consistent. At Falcon Engineering, we understand the execution of HVAC designs that are reliable, consistent and most importantly, energy efficient. 

We provide niche engineering services in the sustainable energy space; as a leader in geoexchange engineering services and energy modelling, our responsibility is to provide mechanical solutions tailored to the needs of our clients. Our commitment is to long term solutions, and in-house resourcefulness for our clients. 

If you are interested in our mechanical service offerings, you can find more information about how we help clients find solutions here.

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