Current Sustainable Schools Applied Research Projects

Strategic Energy Management for School Board Portfolios Project

Project timeline: March – December 2022
Project funding: IESO (lead), Setpoint Building Automation, QMC Metering Solutions

The Sustainable Schools program undertook an applied research project to help Ontario school boards identify and achieve operational energy savings in their schools. This project was based on an analysis done for our 2021 Top Energy Performing School Boards report. As part of that analysis, Sustainable Schools recorded substantial (greater than 20 percent) electricity and natural gas use savings and increases, in the 2018/2019 school year vs. 2017/2018, in hundreds of schools across the province. The research project aimed to identify the causes of these substantial savings and increases. We were particularly interested in the role of operational and maintenance factors and any initiatives undertaken by school staff and service contractors.

The Sustainable Schools team worked with 5 Ontario school boards to investigate the causes of material energy use increases and savings for several schools from each board. We analyzed monthly billing data, building automation systems, sub-metering and management practices that participating boards use to identify energy use variances in a timely manner and to initiate and verify appropriate action. After the analysis stage was complete, we conducted a strategic energy management workshop with all five school boards and project partners/funders.

At the end of the project, we developed a best practices guidance report to summarize the anonymized results of the study. The guidance report can be used by all school boards to help them achieve energy savings, avoid energy increases, and build on local successes to achieve their goals. View the guidance report here: SEM for School Boards Portfolios Guidance Report. On December 6, 2022, we conducted a webinar to present the project results.

Watch the webinar recording here: Strategic Energy Management (SEM) for School Board Portfolios Project Webinar


HIGH-EFFICIENCY Rooftop HVAC Unit Replacements Project

Project timeline: March – December 2022
Project funding: IESO (lead), Kilmer Environmental, Carmichael Engineering

Rooftop units (RTUs) are the most prevalent form of HVAC units in Ontario’s K-12 schools. Current general practice is to replace end-of-life equipment with the same or an equivalent type of equipment which, while more efficient than older technology, does not take advantage of more efficient alternatives. Continuing addition of air conditioning in schools is expected to primarily consist of RTUs and must be done as efficiently as possible to avoid excessive utility costs and strain on the electrical system. As well as equipment selection, design details, commissioning practices and BAS programming can have a substantial effect on the efficiency of RTU installations. There is little empirical evidence to help inform school boards’ and their design consultants’ decision-making on best practices for upcoming projects and the business case for higher standards.

Working with 5 Ontario school boards, the Sustainable Schools team evaluated the design, operational performance, and energy efficiency of several recently retrofitted schools. Two schools from each board were selected for an in-depth examination. Energy and operating data from the selected schools before and after the recent HVAC project installation determined absolute and comparative performance. System design, equipment selection, commissioning practices, and controls were documented for each school and correlated with performance outcomes to help identify best practices. A strategic workshop with the participating boards and project partners/funders was conducted at the end of the project, exploring the boards’ internal capability and organizational alignment for project development and addressing knowledge gaps with respect to energy efficiency and operating performance of their installations.

The research produced an evidence-based guidance document for use by school boards and their design consultants to help improve the design, equipment selection, BAS programming, and commissioning of future RTU replacement projects. View the guidance report here: SUS HVAC Replacements Guidance Report. On December 8, 2022, we conducted a webinar to present the project results. Watch the webinar recording here: High-Efficiency Rooftop HVAC Unit Replacements Research Project

Sustainable Schools - An image of the interior of the school with children.