It’s not easy being green when you’re a 147,000-square-foot concrete structure sprawled over almost an entire city block.
But the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, which is on the verge of its 50th year of operation, is slowly but surely making the transition from an old-style energy hog into the new age of efficiency.
“We try to do everything with a little greener footprint.
It's a big building to operate,” says Mike Cochrane, who is chief operating officer for the centre, where serious upgrades have been in the works for the past decade to the tune of $18-million to date.
One of the first issues tackled was heating system, which initially consisted of five oil-fired furnaces.
Almost 10 years ago the building was hooked up to Charlottetown’s district heating, which is powered by the P.E.I. Energy Systems Waste Plant.
“That’s been a really good success story for the place. It’s saved us on our actual billing because the price of oil has gone right through the roof,” Cochrane says.
“If we were still on oil we would probably double what we’re paying now in terms of district heating.”
A computer-operated energy management system now controls the heating and cooling schedules.
“This place operates on a seven-day cycle 16 hours a day from 7 to 2 a.m. . . . So in order to accommodate what rooms are open at a particular time we have an events schedule that comes out. We can schedule a room to come on an hour or two before so we can heat up the room at that particular time as opposed to run it 24/7 like we did years ago,” Cochrane explains.
One major updating project was the replacement of the centre’s windows and doors, which were all original to the 1964 build, and in many cases single pane glass.
Most were replaced by double Thermopane windows, with the exception of the concourse area where triple Thermopane windows were installed in the typically chillier courtyard area.
Some problem-solving spot changes were made in that space as well. For example, a hot water radiating system was installed, which results in less demand on the air handling systems because the concourse is instead now being heated at the source.
By far one of the biggest renos was the overall roofing job that was completed a couple of years ago.
Another was the replacement of exterior skylight windows on the lower level of the centre that provided light into the concourse, which was project akin to deconstructing huge sections of a stone pyramid and putting back together again.
“It was a massive job. For each skylight window we had to replace it probably cost about five times the price of the window to install it. For example a $5,000 window replacement would cost an additional $25,000 in order to install and put it all back together,” Cochrane says.
A crane was required to move the large concrete buttresses and plaza stone benches and the sandstone panels on the exterior wall of the centre had to be removed before the area could be waterproofed, insulated and the old windows replaced.
“And then we had to take the puzzle pieces we had removed before and put it back together around the entire building without breaking any of the 50-year-old sandstone panels. It was a massive job that took about six months from start to finish,” Cochrane says.
The insulation on almost all of the exterior wall space of the building was also replaced at that time as well.
In the last year, time and money has been invested in changing all of the light fixtures from higher consumption florescent bulbs to smaller florescent bulbs that use about half the energy.
To date, about $45,000 has also been spent to switch to LED light fixtures.
The cost savings in electricity has been $20,000 in just six months.
“We estimate that over a 10-year span that if we had maintained our existing lighting infrastructure we would have wasted about $250,000 as well as burned a lot more energy. And so that is a good cost-saving to us it’s also a reduction of kilowatt usage for the environment,” Cochrane says.
“That¹s a big savings every year.”
Water consumption is also on the radar so things like waterless urinals and low flow toilets have been installed or are being considered for some washrooms.
“Anything we can do to reduce our footprint is something that we¹re trying, whether it’s consumables like water, every time we get the opportunity to do something and as the technology evolves then it¹s an investment we¹ll make in that area,” Cochrane says.
“(The Confederation Centre of the Arts) is a big operation.
We have people here pretty much 24/7 . . . . It takes a lot to keep it going so anywhere you can find a savings that improves your environmental footprint as well as a cost saving it¹s a good thing.”