Okanagan College Doing its Part to Reduce Emissions
As the world’s leaders gather on Earth Day 2021 to discuss steps to battle climate change, Okanagan College is pointing to recent statistics that demonstrate how far its energy savings efforts are advancing B.C.’s sustainability agenda.
Calculations completed this week show that OC has reduced its total overall greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 44 percent since 2007 – this in the face of overall growth in space of 44 per cent in the same period. The calculations show that OC has managed to decrease its per-square-metre emissions by more than 61 percent over that 14-year period. It has already exceeded its 2030 target, producing 1,064 tonnes of GHG in 2020, compared to the 2030 target of 1,142 tonnes.
At an international climate summit, today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada will aim to reduce its emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. (A recent report from Environment and Climate Change Canada showed that Canada’s total emissions have decreased just 1.1 percent since 2005, and had actually grown from 2018 to 2019 by 0.2 percent.)
(OC’s emission calculations are based on energy usage in its buildings, fuel consumption, and use of paper. More than 90 percent of emissions are associated with heating, lighting and cooling its buildings.)
“The built environment is a major contributor to the world’s emissions, and Okanagan College has shown what is possible when an organization takes a dedicated, determined approach to incorporating sustainability in new construction and retrofits,” observes Okanagan College President Dr. Neil Fassina. “Our efforts to further reduce our environmental impact will continue in support of regional, provincial and national targets.”
In real terms, Okanagan College’s cumulative total reduction in GHG over the past 14 years is equivalent to taking 1,104 cars off the road for a year, or the energy used by 611 homes for a year, or the carbon sequestered by 6,219 acres of forest.
Okanagan College can boast of constructing two LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum-certified buildings since 2007: the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Penticton and the Trades Tower at the Kelowna campus. Okanagan College’s Centre for Learning (Kelowna), its welding building (Penticton), and its Vernon Trades Centre are all LEED-Gold-certified. Innovative projects, such as using greywater from the Kelowna Wastewater Treatment Plant to help heat and cool the Kelowna campus and extensive solar arrays in Penticton, Kelowna, and Vernon, have helped reduce the institution’s energy consumption.
One example of Okanagan College’s commitment is a partnership with UBC Okanagan to establish a Green Construction Research and Training Centre (GCRTC) that will provide new research options and create hands-on practical training opportunities for students.
The GCRTC will generate and expand knowledge in the areas of green (environment-friendly) construction—including materials, structural components and systems, and construction management. The objectives are to create civil infrastructure that is safe, durable, energy-efficient and affordable through innovative technologies. Industry collaborations are already underway with anticipated spin-off companies creating a community that supports self-sustainability and local economic development.
Another example is Okanagan College’s role in a national consortium of select colleges and polytechnics – Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) – that is focused on green research and training as the country emerges from the pandemic-prompted recession.
Among its green-focused programs, Okanagan College offers a diploma in Sustainable Building Technology (formerly the Sustainable Construction Management Technology program, which was established in 2011) and diplomas in Environmental Studies and Water Engineering Technology.