Good News, We’re Getting Retro

Hi All,

I’m back with a good news. UHN has been approved for a decent RCx fund from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) for a retro-commissioning study. As part of their Energy Efficiency Program, NRCan provides financial assistance to Canadian organizations for commissioning projects in existing buildings (EBCx), including re- retro- or ongoing commissioning. These projects will help demonstrate the efficacy and benefits of EBCx, while providing greater insight on EBCx approaches and issues.

The RCx fund would be split between two facilities, Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital, with the primary objective of reducing energy consumption and carbon foot print through investigation and optimization of existing mechanical and building automation system.


A Little Bit About Retro-Commissioning:

Retro-commissioning (RCx) is a systematic and documented process for improving building performance. It provides a thorough, systems approach-based evaluation to identify problems and integration issues. The main objective is to identify low cost/no cost operational improvements to improve occupant comfort and achieve energy savings.

Typically, RCx project can yield 5% to 15% energy savings. In some cases, it may go as high as a 30%! In most cases, the payback time is less than two years.

Non Energy Benefits (NEBs) and Impacts of RCx:

In addition to energy savings improvements, non-energy benefits (NEBs) are extensive and often offset part or all of the commissioning cost. Fewer premature breakdowns and comfort-related complaints, better Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), higher productivity and fewer service calls are some of the NEBs.

RCx verifies the set-points are corrects and controls are working properly


A Retro-Commissioning Is Not AN Energy Audit:

Retro-commissioning varies from a traditional energy audit, although they share the goal of minimizing operational costs and improving building energy performance. While an energy audit identifies technology-intensive and energy-efficient capital improvement, RCx focuses on low cost changes in operations and maintenance practices that can enhance building operation.

It makes sense to perform RCx prior to or as part of an energy audit as it offers low cost measures to optimize the existing building systems and reduces the need for potentially expensive retrofit solutions. By implementing a combination of RCx and energy audit-identified measures, it may help improve the payback period of energy audit measures alone. The table below summarizes the differences between these two types of investigations.

UHN RCx Project Benefits to Canada and all Canadians:

The project will help promote Canada’s energy efficiency objectives, and address its clean energy and climate change goals. This will be accomplished by…

  • Reducing electricity and natural gas consumption in the two largest and oldest buildings at University Health Network (TGH and TWH).
  • Encouraging other healthcare organizations and building operators (within the University Health Network and outside) to do the same, by providing information and lessons learned in this project.
  • Evaluating the benefits and challenges of retro-commissioning in a building with a district energy system (Toronto General Hospital).
  • Increased comfort level for building occupants and tenants.
  • Reduced utility costs, allowing for funds to be spent toward other initiatives in the building portfolio/healthcare.
  • As a case study, it will inform similar future projects on the successes and challenges.
  • This process shall encourage partnerships and engagement efforts between University Health Network, NRCan, and other organizations committed to reducing their energy needs and carbon footprint.

At the end, I should mention that the City of Toronto facilitated dispersing the funding for retro-commissioning studies and helped us a lot with our proposal. I’d like to thank Tony Chau and Duncan MacLellan from the City of Toronto for their great support.

Stay Tuned More Good News Coming Soon…

Benefits of Climate Action

Apocalyptic future scenarios, crushing costs of adaptation, sacrifices required – this is the typical framing of the climate crisis discussion. What if I told you it’s not all doom and gloom? This article is about the benefits of taking meaningful climate action.

First off, why is it important for UHNers to take action against climate change? As we know, climate change is a serious issue for healthcare and taking action will be mandatory to maintain a livable world for ourselves in the future as well as our kids. In a previous blog, Talkin’ Trash looked at the actions individuals can take to fight the climate crisis. Many analyses tend to focus on the up front financial costs of climate action, however these often don’t take into account the full life-cycle benefits. So, what are some of the benefits of climate action?

Reduction in Air Pollution

In Toronto I find myself holding my breath sometimes as I walk through clouds of diesel exhaust from buses, trucks, and construction sites. Converting these vehicles to electric power will not only reduce CO2 emissions, but also prevent many people from inhaling toxic and carcinogenic exhaust fumes. With every diesel and gas vehicle removed by active transport or switched to electric we are reducing the amount of air pollution in populated areas. This could have a positive impact on urban health.

As Lisa mentioned, since Ontario eliminated coal power from the utility grid, we have also virtually eliminated smog days. This project was also the largest single climate action taken so far in North America (even larger than BC implementing a province-wide carbon tax).

Reduction in Noise

Electric vehicles are well known for being extremely quiet compared to their fossil fueled counterparts. Streets are much more pleasant and healthy places without the sounds of engines screaming by. Reducing CO2 emissions by reducing personal vehicle travel and by converting necessary vehicles to electric will have a side benefit of noise reduction.

traffic noise

I can almost hear this image

Active Transportation May Cause Weight Loss

Perhaps one of the ways you can cut CO2 emissions is by driving less and walking/biking more? Well, good news! Instead of sitting in traffic, you are getting free exercise, potentially losing weight, and potentially feeling better. You might not even need that expensive gym membership any more.

More Jobs

With so much air being taken up in the media arguing about pipelines and oil, it often gets missed that the clean tech industry in Canada actually employs more people than the fossil fuel industry and is growing faster than the overall economy. Encouraging CO2 reduction and becoming technology leaders should continue to boost the economy and increase job numbers.


Cost Savings

Although emission reduction measures often have an upfront cost, there is typically a reduction in energy consumption and related cost savings. An analysis from the website Cleantechnica shows that under certain driving assumptions, a Tesla Model 3 can have a lower 5 year cost of ownership than a Toyota Corolla. Check out this presentation from Mark Perez of Clean Power Research, which analyzes the utility grid in Minnesota and demonstrates through modeling that a renewable (wind and solar) grid with battery storage and small amount of gas backup can provide firm power supply at extremely low cost (even in a cold northern climate like Minnesota).

There are many many examples on this very blog of UHN projects that cut emissions while simultaneously saving huge on utilities. Just one example, last year’s deep lake cooling project at Toronto General Hospital cut CO2 emissions by 269 tons per year. This project is also saving UHN $22M over 20 years with a 4.2 year payback on our capital investment, so don’t let the naysayers tell you that cutting CO2 emissions always costs a lot of money!

By focusing on all these benefits to cutting CO2 emissions, perhaps we can overcome some of the institutional inertia holding back necessary actions to stabilize our climate. Leadership is all that is needed to overcome this issue. Luckily, there are plenty of leaders calling for action. Greta Thunberg is my favorite!

This blog post reminds me of an old cartoon by Joel Pett:


OK fine, just a little doom and gloom: All-time temperature records tumble again as heatwave sears Europe

Climate Change is a Health Care Issue

A lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of the national health systems they depend on, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services.

This is not a quote from Greenpeace, Al Gore, or David Suzuki. It is from The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world. More and more health organizations are recognizing climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Canadian health organizations, such as the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, and others are urging decisive action from political and business leaders, institutions, and individuals to reign in CO2 emissions that are causing climate change.


Flash Flooding in Toronto. Photo Source

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UHN’s CEAL Lab Installs New Lighting System

An innovative new LED lighting system has been installed at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s CEAL lab (Challenging Environment Assessment Lab). Researchers in this lab conduct world class experiments to advance knowledge in mobility, aging, accessibility, design safety, and much more. The lab itself is a unique space with high ceilings located in the basement of TRI’s University Centre. Feel free to read more about the exciting research conducted at CEAL and throughout TRI at this link.

Before taking a deeper dive into the project, here are some quick energy savings numbers:

  • Electricity Savings: 88,000 kWh
  • Cost Savings: $12,300
  • Payback: 1.8 years
  • Additional benefits: Reliability

The before and after photos below demonstrate how LED lights can improve performance while saving energy at the same time.

Before and after

Left hand picture shows original fluorescent lighting, right hand picture shows new LED lighting


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Huge Savings from Ongoing LED Retrofits

As I mentioned in my Terminator themed T8 blog, I’ll be back. And now I’m back to let you know how the roll out of our T8 retrofit program is going. Since that original blog *checks watch* three years ago (!) we have replaced huge numbers of lamps throughout UHN, so this is a story that all sites can celebrate! Here are some quick numbers for lamps retrofitted at each site:

  • TGH – 5,500
  • TWH – 6,000
  • PMH – 6,500
  • TRI – 2,000

Total UHN: 20,000 lamps!

For those that are wondering what I’m talking about when I say “LED T8 tube” check the image below. The 8 refers to the diameter of the lamp in eighths of an inch (eight eighths is one inch).


This is an LED T8 tube

Energy Savings

So far, we have primarily installed new LED tubes in 24 hour applications, such as lobbies, hallways, stairwells, mechanical spaces, etc. The long run hours of these lamps mean that we are savings lots of energy and getting a faster payback.

UHN-wide savings total almost 1,500,000 kWh based on the 20,000 T8 lamps replaced. This is equivalent to the electricity consumption of 155 houses in Ontario!


Other Benefits of LED

Light Levels: In certain hallways at TGH, people were asking if the walls had been painted. This is because the LED lamps produce slightly more light than the old fluorescent lamps, enhancing hallway appearance and safety in previously under lit areas. We recognize that higher light output is not always desired and are also purchasing lower wattage T8s for sensitive areas.

Shatterproof: The LED lamps are made of a shatterproof plastic material, meaning they are safer to install and service than glass fluorescent tubes.

No Mercury: Old fluorescent lamps use mercury, a highly toxic substance, as a key component to make the lamp function. If a fluorescent lamp were to break, the mercury would escape and risk exposure to building occupants. LEDs have no mercury or any materials that can be released into the air. They are considered to be electronic waste, however, and must still be disposed of appropriately.

Longer service life: Fluorescent lamps have a typical service life of 20,000 hours and tend to degrade in performance and colour throughout their life. The LEDs installed have 50,000 hour life and new ones we are now purchasing have 70,000 hour lifespans. This extended life will free up some of our maintenance staff time that is spent changing light bulbs so that they can work on important tasks, such as preventive maintenance.

Ongoing Project

Since our original T8 supply contract, costs of LEDs have dropped almost in half and we have a new contract in place. Additionally, the LED lamps are now only 15W instead of the original 18W, while maintaining the exact same light output. With the lower cost of purchase and increased energy savings, it is now very cost effective to replace lamps not only in 24 hour areas, but in all areas. We are aggressively pursuing more replacements across UHN, including the following projects that are underway:

  • TRI: 2,100 lamps (including relamping all T8s in Lyndurst and Rumsey Centre)
  • TGH: 5,000 lamps
  • KDT: 9,000 lamps (relamping the entire building)

I would like to thank the facilities teams who have worked hard to make these projects a success, especially at TRI and TGH, where facilities staff have done all the relamping work in house. Bravo!

BAS Schedule Control: Simple but Best


Almost all buildings, in particular hospitals, have a Building Automation System (BAS). It’s is like the brain of a building. Continue reading

Mike at Home: The Sequel

When Ontario is giving out free smart thermostats, you know it’s time for a blog! Most of my recent blog posts have been about projects at UHN, so this time I’m going to change it up and talk about a couple of neat technologies I’m using at my apartment to save energy. Both of these savings ideas were mentioned in my previous Mike at Home Blog, but these new technologies really help to put those ideas into practice in a convenient way. There are many ways to save energy at home, even if you are a renter like me!

Smart Thermostat

I already had a programmable thermostat which was helping to save energy, but I wasn’t able to maximize savings for a couple of reasons. One way I typically try to save power is by setting back the thermostat if I’m away for a weekend or longer vacation, however this often led to an uncomfortably cold temperature for a few hours upon return. When energy savings lead to discomfort it can be difficult to maintain the energy savings behavior and I may have been less consistent in doing the temperature set back as a result. With my old thermostat on the fritz, I took the opportunity to upgrade to a web-connected thermostat.


New Thermostat (source)

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