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A drafty castle no more

December 31, 2010
Goldstream News Gazette

Royal Roads University expects to reduce its carbon footprint by 20 per cent this year.

Thanks to more than $1 million in government and industry grants, the school will retrofit all of its aging buildings, including the 100-year-old Hatley Castle. Some buildings will see new lighting or insulation installed. Inefficient heating and ventilation systems will be upgraded.

"We're taking care of what you might call the low hanging fruit — the obvious issues," explained director of physical and environmental resources Doug Pletsch.

The upgrades are expected to save the university $55,000 per year on its utility bills and reduce it's carbon offsetting cost by $8,000.

When the university used BC Hydro's SMARTTool to measure its carbon footprint in 2009, it was found to be producing 1,549 tonnes of green house gas, which cost $25 per tonne to offset. The upgrade will save 317 tonnes of carbon.

Sustainability director Nancy Wilkins said this is the largest investment the university has seen for improving its energy efficiency.

In November Royal Roads also qualified for a $109,000 grant to equip its residence buildings with solar panels to run water heaters, which were previously fueled by natural gas. That project was expected to save $4,000 per year in energy costs.

"We're on a roll, getting these grants," Wilkins said, noting that the school received compliments on its quality applications. In 2009 Royal Roads completed several campus-wide energy studies to base its funding requests on.

"We have it broken down what projects will cost and how much energy they will save," Wilkins said. "It's basically a wish list that we can check off as the money comes through."

The school has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020. To do that, Wilkins said, it will take more than infrastructure improvements.

"We need to engage the campus community to encourage energy-saving habits," Wilkins said.

The new Learning and Innovation Centre, set to open this spring, will serve as a pilot for an eco-awareness marketing strategy that could spread campus wide. It includes signs to encourage people to use recycling bins and turn off lights.

The school is also developing a strategy to bring down use of single occupancy vehicles, which is the transportation method used for 90 per cent of trips to campus.

A new sustainability website, launched in December, tracks the school's progress towards it's energy saving goals at sustainability.royalroads.ca.