Keeping our campus warm

It’s not easy keeping a campus as large as UBC (over 400 hectares in size!) warm throughout the cooler months. Most buildings on the UBC Vancouver campus are connected to a centralized thermal energy system managed by UBC Facilities’ Energy & Water Services which oversees thermal energy generation and conservation.

Generating thermal energy at UBC Vancouver campus

For many core UBC buildings, Energy & Water Services operates a district energy system (DES) to distribute heat. In these DES systems, thermal energy is generated from the Campus Energy Center (CEC) and the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (BRDF) in the form of heating-hot-water and process steam, and then distributed through a system of pipes under campus to over 100 buildings, where devices called heat exchangers transfer the heat from the DES into separate heating or hot water systems within the building.

The CEC is the primary energy source for our new hot water district energy system. Part of UBC’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction program, CEC is capable of meeting all of UBC’s heating requirements while helping reduce UBC’s annual carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint by an expected 22 per cent from 2007 baseline levels.

A partnership between UBC and two of the world’s leading developers of green technology, the BRDF is an energy generation facility that processes renewable biomass sourced from urban wood waste to generate thermal energy for heating campus buildings.

Supporting the university 24/7

Thermal generation is a complex and integrated process that requires strong attention to details and the ability to react and reconcile operational deviations while proactively maintaining equipment and planning for contingencies.

Energy & Water Services’ Thermal Power Engineers within the Thermal Utilities unit play a key role in maintaining continuous operational and system vigilance and ensuring that the campus receives reliable thermal energy.

The 12 Thermal Power Engineers work on rotating 12-hour shifts to ensure continuous year-round thermal plant coverage — even on campus throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As work carries on at the CEC and BRDF, including preliminary upgrades to the solid fuel system, office renovations, thermal generator tuning and additional heat recovery projects, we appreciate our thermal operators for continuing to demonstrate adaptability, expertise and collaboration!