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Durham board tops in energy efficiency

DDSB energy conservation efforrts seeing results

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

In a time when energy conservation is becoming all the rage, the Durham District School Board is setting the bar for school boards in Ontario.

DDSB was named as the most energy efficient board in the province in the 2017 Top Energy Performing Schools Board Report by the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority.

The local board moved up from seventh place in 2016.

Shawn O’ Brien, manager of energy and mechanical design and maintenance for DDSB, attributes the honour to a collaborative effort board-wide.

“It’s a group effort and I’m really proud of what we have accomplished,” O’ Brien says.

Credit is due across the board to the facility staff, administration, staff and students, O’ Brien added.

“Conservation is a real priority for the board and we’ve had a good buy-in from everyone.”

With students and staff spending the most time at DDSB’s 135 buildings, a large amount of acclaim is due to them.

“Our students are very conscientious. They are the occupants of the buildings and the ones making the difference,” O’ Brien says. “They are going to be the custodians of energy in the future, and what we teach them now, they are going to turn around and teach future students.”

DDSB has equipped about half of its schools with real-time energy monitoring units, which O’ Brien believes goes a long way in becoming more efficient and can also serve as a learning tool for students.

“At lunch, the students can turn off all the lights and they can see the impact they have on the school.”

Other contributing factors to the board’s flourishing efficiency include upgrades to equipment, advanced training for custodial staff and frequent planning to see how schools can become more efficient.

“As we get better and discover something at one school, we will try to have them all operating in the same fashion,” O’ Brien says.

Through his more than 20 years with the board, O’Brien says there has always been a concentrated effort to be good energy stewards.

“We’ve always monitored what we’ve used and we always knew there was potential savings,” he states. “Even with new builds, we are always looking to make schools more energy efficient.”

The Toronto & Region Conservation Authority’s report uses analysis of energy use and building information for Ontario’s 5,000 schools and board administration buildings, as publicly reported by the 72 school boards.

Energy targets are set for every building based on top of good practice standards, normalized for building type and area, weather differences and a number of site-specific variables.

The energy savings potential is determined for each building as the difference between actual energy use and the target, and the energy efficiency of the school board is determined by rolling up results for all of their buildings.

DDSB had the lowest potential energy savings at 12.6 per cent, just ahead of the York Region District School Board at 12.7 per cent.

According to the conservation’s report, the average total potential energy savings across the province is 28.9 per cent, which represents $70 million annually (in 2015 utility rates), accounting for 294,000 tonnes in avoidable greenhouse gas emissions.

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