UBC Co-op Student helps VSB with its Sustainability Efforts

Laurence Kao has been interested in engineering and green buildings since he won a UBC design challenge while attending secondary school in Port Moody. But it wasn't until earlier this summer that Kao got a firsthand look at how proper facility design can reduce the energy and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of a large organization.

Kao was hired this summer as VSB Facility Department's first co-op student. Funded by the monies the Board had saved through previous energy saving projects, Kao's job was to help the VSB explore further energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction opportunities. Working in the Energy and Climate Action Program, he was supervised by Kirthi Roberts, the Board's Facilities Manager for Energy and Climate Action.Kao also received support for his work from the Manager of Maintenance & Construction, Doug McClary.

This year, for a second time in a row, the VSB made BC Hydro's Top-10 Power Smart Partner's list for electricity conservation. Part of the reason for this was the Board's recent success in cutting down the equivalent of the annual power consumed by 155 homes or 1.7 GWh. And for Roberts and his team, this was just the start.

"The co-op work term was a win-win situation as the student's work added value to our energy conservation and sustainability efforts and it also provided a venue for Laurence to gain valuable experience toward his Engineering degree," says Roberts.

During the co-op term, Kao travelled and collected facility and operations data from 30 schools and got a firsthand guided tour of the innards of VSB schools from those who knew the buildings the best - the building maintenance staff and the school building operators. His main task was to suggest improvements to the different heating and ventilation schedules at the schools in an effort to figure out how to program them to optimize energy use and minimize heat waste. Kao also made recommendations on future technological and process options that would help the school district, going forward.

"The whole co-op placement was like an interactive HVAC course," says Kao. "It was much more informative than a similar seminar I'd sit through in school."

At the end of his four months of surveying the district, Kao presented his findings to all the managers of the VSB Facilities Department. The presentation was a golden opportunity to share his recommendations and lessons learned from his work term. Roberts says the VSB has been all the better for it and the Facilities Department has already begun implementing many of the recommendations that emerged from this work.

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