Aging equipment is a challenge all building managers face. Replacing outdated equipment piece by piece, while straightforward on the surface, is a costly approach to asset renewal. Instead, equipment upgrades can be turned into an opportunity to create financial value, generate environmental benefits, and enhance a facility’s overall operations.
The Montreal Olympic Park did exactly that. And the results are so impressive that their project was recently named Energy Project of the Year by the Association of Energy Engineers. It also received a prestigious ASHRAE Technology Award.
Two of the Olympic Park’s key players in this project – Maurice Landry, VP Construction and Maintenance, and Dominic Desjardins, Energy Manager – explain to us how the project was carried out and what the benefits will be for the Olympic Park in the years to come.
The number one issue was the vast amount of obsolete equipment – dating back to when the stadium was built in the 1970s – that needed to be replaced by modern equipment.
We already intended to carry out several retrofit projects, mainly for the thermal plant. We planned to add new electric boilers, refurbish the existing boilers, replace end-of-life chillers and cooling towers, and upgrade our energy recovery system that was completely obsolete and out of service.
Our next goal was reducing the facility’s annual operating costs. By upgrading our equipment, we could achieve substantial energy savings. We had another goal that’s important for most public organizations and that all companies should take an interest in: reducing GHG emissions.
In the past, we mainly did “one-for-one” equipment replacement at the Olympic Park. This meant that no one examined the systems as a whole and their interactions. By taking a closer look and speaking with specialists in the field, we quickly realized it was advantageous to carry out all these projects at the same time.
Considerable budgets had already been forecasted for projects that, at the time, were seen as independent from one another. Consolidating all our projects resulted in a much more coherent design. Project implementation was also more efficient, since we only needed to manage one project rather than several smaller ones.
Our energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions were also fast-tracked.
It would have taken us between 7 and 10 years to carry out all these upgrades if we had used a traditional model, where separate public bidding processes would have been necessary for each equipment replacement project. A deep energy retrofit approach gave us the opportunity to rethink our systems as a whole and carry out the project in 36 months.
The project was in the hands of a single design-build firm that was responsible for the work in its entirety and that was focused on achieving the same results as us. If the work had been fragmented – different contracts, different designs from different firms – I’m not sure if the end result would have been coherent.
We saved time and money on the bidding process, as well as on design and construction, because we had a single general contractor that was responsible for all the work.
Timelines are shorter with design-build projects, compared to the traditional model where an engineering firm does the design and a construction contractor does the work.
The deep energy retrofit brought another important benefit for us: with the re-design, we were able to eliminate our steam system. Not only was our steam system costly to maintain, all its components were very old and upgrading it would have been extremely expensive.
Another advantage is that the project’s performance was contractually guaranteed.
Yes, our asset renewal became cost-effective. Energy savings was a major focus of our project. The other focus was renewing equipment that wasn’t profitable to replace in terms of energy savings, but that needed to be replaced all the same. Thanks to the project’s overall energy savings, we were able to incorporate this necessary asset renewal, and the project will still pay for itself within 12 years*.
We’d already planned $15M to $20M to upgrade the thermal plant with one-for-one equipment replacement projects. Instead, we combined these into a single project.
Not only did we carry out the upgrades in the thermal plant, we were also able to improve the controls, and upgrade the lighting in the Olympic Stadium and Sports Centre.
The project’s total cost was also guaranteed by the design-build firm, meaning we could avoid any contingencies and cost overruns.
In the end, instead of using $15M to $20M of our asset renewal budget to carry out several equipment replacement projects, we invested $6.5M in a deep energy retrofit project that upgraded the same equipment. With guaranteed incentives, funding from the government, and much higher annual energy savings – which were also guaranteed – we were able to complete this project with less pressure on our asset renewal budget. And ultimately, we’re also benefitting from upgraded systems, which were re-designed as a whole to run optimally and efficiently.
*Editor’s note: Surpassing annual savings (more than 10% above the target) and financial incentives will actually bring the payback period to around 8 years. 12 years corresponds to the forecasted payback period as guaranteed in the detailed study report.