Saving energy saves money and reduces our carbon footprint. From 2006 to 2018 the VSB implemented electricity saving actions equivalent to more than 20% of our electricity consumption. These savings are equivalent to an avoided cost of $800,000 annually.
Conservation has become even more important. Electricity prices (per unit of energy) will rise by 20% over 5 years. Natural gas prices are low now, but variable and difficult to predict. We are adding new schools into the District, and within existing schools there is an increasing demand for energy as we embrace new technologies.
In 2014 the VSB created a conservation action plan that is targeted to reduce electricity consumption by an additional 10% and to reduce natural gas consumption by 5% by 2018.
For many years, our energy savings have been achieved through hardware changes – new lights, and new equipment. These will continue, but going forward there will be an increasing focus on behaviour; activities that our students and staff can undertake to conserve energy. To learn more about our plan to reduce energy please read our Strategic Energy Management Plan (SEMP) document.
Provincial Climate Action Commitment
Carbon Neutral Action Report - CNAR
All public sector organizations in BC monitor and report on their carbon emissions (required by legislation). To find out about our carbon footprint and what we are doing to reduce it read our latest Carbon Neutral Action Report.
Carbon Footprint & Carbon Neutral Commitment
Using SMARTTool, the VSB calculates its annual Greenhouse Gas emissions and reports that data to the Ministry of Environment, as per the Climate Change Accountability Act. In 2018 the total GHG emissions for the school district (measured in tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent, or tCO2e) was 14,924 tonnes. Approximately 90% of the carbon footprint comes from the burning of Natural Gas to heat our schools. Paper consumption is responsible for about 4%, electricity use is responsible for another 3%, and fleet fuel contributes to about 3% of the school district’s carbon footprint.
In order to address the high percentage of our carbon foot print coming from using Natural Gas to heat our schools, the school district is working to lower its energy and carbon footprint through a variety of technological, operational and behavioural strategies.
In 2014, 15 VSB secondary schools participated in a Sustainability Grant initiative, which challenged students to come up with innovative projects that advance sustainability in their schools and wider communities.
Student groups wrote and submitted a project proposal, with ideas ranging from developing and installing school gardens, installing water bottle refilling stations and dual flush toilets, holding educational “awareness” weeks and events, to replacing disposable dishes and cutlery with reusable ones in school cafeterias and holding public garbage audits to highlight how much waste can actually be recycled.
Along with school staff sponsors and administrators, the Sustainability Department and VSB staff worked with students to help them plan and execute their projects. The program culminated in an event where students had the opportunity to present their accomplishments to their peers, share ideas and challenges, and plan for the future.
The Sustainability Conference led “by students” and “for students” is to educate our youth on environmental concerns, to provide tools for post-conference actions and to establish collaborative initiatives between VSB schools and other GVRD districts. Each year the focus of the Sustainability Conference will be to build on the previous year’s achievements, by offering a greater workshop selection, guest speakers, showcasing school sustainability project success stories, and facilitating inter and intra-school discussions on sustainability goals and action plans.
The C3 Conference (Climate Change Conference) at Windermere Secondary School held every November is open to all VSB and external secondary students and focuses on issues, actions and solutions to climate change issues. It is a district-wide event to connect secondary school students from across the lower mainland who are passionate about building just and sustainable communities and making a difference in their schools.
Registration for this event typically opens in October at c3vancity.com.
Renewable Energy Technologies & Systems
Solar Thermal Energy
With funding from the Province of British Columbia, Solar BC, Fortis BC and Natural Resources Canada, the Vancouver School Board installed 5 solar hot-water (thermal) systems at 5 secondary schools in 2010 – Windermere, David Thompson, Vancouver Technical, Sir Charles Tupper and Lord Byng. The solar energy harnessed by these systems will be used to complement the domestic hot water demands of the schools.
Solar Photo-Voltaic Energy
Sir Charles Tupper Secondary was one of 11 schools in BC that received $20,000 from the Provincial Government for the installation of Solar-electric (photovoltaic) panels. The 5kW Solar-PV system which generates renewable electricity was installed in 2012. For more information, click here.
Sustainable School Design & Construction
Charles Dickens Elementary is the first LEED-Silver certified school at VSB and is home to a geo-exchange system. The school design includes a number of ‘green initiatives’ such as low flow plumbing fixtures, rainwater for toilets and irrigation, material re-use from the previous school, low VOC materials and heat-recovery from classroom exhaust air to pre-heat incoming air. For more information on the Sustainable design features of Charles Dickens Elementary, click here.
At present VSB New Construction projects go through an Integrated Energy Modelling process and the schools are being built to LEED Gold equivalency. Going forward we strive to exceed this standard and build high-performance schools that approach ‘Carbon Neutral’ or ‘Net-Zero’ standards.
Maintenance & Sustainability
Lighting & Heating Plant Upgrades
In addition to the lighting and heating system upgrades that new schools or seismic upgrades receive, the VSB also upgrades the lighting and heating systems at existing schools with the Annual Facilities Grants (AFG) the School District receives from the Ministry of Education. With the available grants, on average the VSB upgrades approximately 2 heating plants per year and between 2-3 schools receive complete lighting redesign and system upgrades per year.