New Ventilation System in Health Science a Breath of Fresh Air

USask's Optimizing Energy Efficiency partnership with the Government of Canada is bringing major GHG emissions reductions to the Health Sciences complex.

By Matt Wolsfeld

The planned installation of a new demand-controlled ventilation system in Health Science D-Wing as part of USask's Optimizing Energy Efficiency (OEE) partnership with the Government of Canada is set to save over $100,000 and more than 500 tonnes of CO2e in GHG emissions a year.

After signing a partnership with the Government of Canada in 2019 to commit joint funding in the name of building improvements and GHG emissions reductions, a great deal of effort has gone into identifying the best opportunities to investment this funding around campus. A primary candidate has always been the university's laboratory spaces, which are some of the most energy-intensive spaces on campus. Fume hoods and ventilation, in particular, are large drivers of this energy use. The need to ventilate dangerous chemical fumes and provide appropriate air quality to our lab users makes for increased demands on the ventilation systems that push air through the building.

The AIRCUITY demand-controlled ventilation system seeks to address this energy use by smartly reducing building ventilation outside of normal operating hours. By analysing when users are not occupying lab spaces and regularly measuring air quality, this system is able to reduce the amount of air exchange taking place in the lab without compromising air quality.

This reduction in air exchange makes for major opportunities in energy reduction. As ventilation decreases in unoccupied spaces, the lower air supply volume thus requires less energy for heating, cooling, and distribution by the building's central ventilation system. Less energy use of course means less GHG emissions, which bodes well for the university's target to reduce GHG emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.

"The university's bold targets for GHG emission reductions mean that impressive steps must be taken to reduce the energy use of our buildings," says Robert Bierman, Manager of Facilities Sustainability and Engineering (FSE) at USask. "Our buildings account for 80-90% of our overall GHG emissions, so the only way we're reliably going to reduce our impact is by improving the physical spaces around campus."

GHG reductions also make for excellent financial returns. The installation of the AIRCUITY system in Health Science D-Wing labs alone is set to reduce annual electricity costs by ~$100,000. When paired with the reduction of over 500 tonnes CO2e (which carries its own weight in carbon tax costs), this system carries a simple payback period of 10-13 years. 

"Fume hoods keep lab users safe, but they also use a remarkable amount of energy through ventilation,"
 says Bierman. "Simply closing the sash on a fume hood during evenings and weekends can avoid creating the same amount of GHG emissions that the average residential home uses in a year. These upgrades are no-brainers to me." 

The system won't see full implementation until 2022's winter term, but the team at FSE is hard at work preparing the building's occupants for the changes. New signage will be supplied for fume hoods to help users ensure they receive adequate ventilation during off-hour usage and lab managers have been educated on the use of the system.

This is the latest in a long line of projects made possible by USask's OEE partnership with the Government of Canada. Read more about it at the Office of Sustainability's website


This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Low Carbon Economy Fund.