Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 73.23
Liaison Michael Chapman
Submission Date Dec. 8, 2016
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Nova Scotia Community College
IN-2: Innovation 2

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Michael Chapman
Environmental Engineer
Facilities & Engineering
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Title or keywords related to the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Improving Campus Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Through Efficient Space Utilization

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
The Facilities and Engineering Department have embedded flexible space design and utilization into our sustainability action plans. Design and utilization are interdependent on each other - ie if a room is empty, or at less than capacity, it is not an energy efficient or highly sustainable use of space. Good space utilization has proven to be a substantial piece of the puzzle that is often neglected when considering building use. Similarly, good space design allows for flexibility across multiple programs, thus a higher space utilization. At NSCC newly constructed spaces are designed to be flexible, and the utilization is tracked closely through scheduling software. This is measured regularly and reported against utilization goals. Further detail on NSCC's approach on space management is provided in the next section.

A brief description of any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation (if not reported above):
Over the past eight years, NSCC has reduced energy consumption by 23%, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 31% and our water consumption by 40%. In addition, 75% of the waste that we generate has been diverted away from landfill.
These improvements were achieved largely through infrastructure changes such as lighting upgrades, improved waste management systems and building envelope improvements. However, something we learned along the way is that in order to optimize building performance, infrastructure upgrades and space utilization are interdependent of each other.
It started with a simple thought: we can have the most efficient buildings systems available, but if a room is sitting empty or at far less than capacity, then how efficient is it? To answer this question, we conducted a space utilization analysis across our 13 campuses and discovered there was opportunity for improvement. The analysis also impacted how we looked at operational cost. The efficiency of buildings is often measured by cost per square foot. We adopted another perspective: cost per student.

First we needed to change the ownership of space. The results from the data analysis largely showed that spaces that were dedicated to serving the needs of a particular academic program or specific function achieved lower utilization rates than those rooms that served multiple groups. To capitalize on this finding, we introduced scheduling and space utilization software, which simplified the development of efficient schedules, and tracked the use of the spaces. This resulted in real energy savings as the College no longer needed to heat and cool spaces that were empty. Since implementing this new software, the College has seen utilization improvement rates at several of our 13 campuses jump from 40 to 70 percent.
Second, we addressed our physical footprint. Utilizing infrastructure funding from the Province of Nova Scotia, we evaluated the ability of our existing traditional learning spaces to meet the requirements of the College’s high-quality program delivery needs, as well as to support its mission statement. We found that there was, again, room for improvement. Rather than creating additional traditional learning spaces, we implemented an innovative design approach to space management. The design approach was based on three pillars: 1) Reducing our footprint, 2) Flexibility, and 3) Engagement.
Building on the findings of the space analysis, we conceptualized spaces that were both smaller, and could serve multiple groups. This started by challenging ourselves to work with a reduced footprint, while still providing the program excellence NSCC is known for. This included learning spaces (eg; trade shops) that were as small as a third of their typical size.
To work within this smaller footprint meant working as a team to change the way our programming was delivered. We designed open concept spaces that could be flexible and quickly adapted for various programs. A detailed material handling process was put in place to cut down on the need for fixed equipment, and overhead doors were installed between shops to support this flexibility. Adopting more portable and scaled-down training aids and specific infrastructure supports were also required—such as drop-down electrical connections and high-density racking systems.
Third, to make this work and to better understand the variety of demands on the space, it was also important to have all stakeholders engaged from the conceptual design phase through to construction and operations. We struck a team that included academic chairs, curriculum development staff, facilities staff, construction managers, and an industrial process engineer.
While still ongoing, a product of this work was the creation of the Centre for the Built Environment (CBE) at our Waterfront Campus. Constructed in 2010, the CBE is dedicated to the School of Trades & Technology. It is a dynamic and interactive learning environment for academic and research programs focused on more sustainable practices for the building industry. The CBE brings together trades and technologies students with technical experts for innovative building systems projects and to access the latest in energy research and technologies. This building looks and feels unlike any other trades and technology building in Nova Scotia or the rest of Canada. In addition to its minimal ecological footprint, the CBE provides a unique learning experience for students in 13 programs within the academic school, and represents a huge step forward for the College in sustainable design. Embedded in the curricula for all programs delivered in the space is an ecological theme that goes hand-in-hand with the College's environmental goals.
Upon reflection, it is clear that there were several factors that aided in the success of this project, and would be recommended for any similar, future undertaking. Engaging staff and students from the start is important, making sure that they have a say, that they understand what the goals are, and how the changes may impact them. It also helps to make the project part of your brand. We branded our sustainability focus to help generate support and buy-in from our community. Setting goals and creating accountability are other important tools to ensure success. We set aggressive goals and policies related to sustainability, including space utilization. Accountability means that senior leaders support the efforts and provide on-going supervision to ensure the work stays on track. This can include annual auditing and reporting responsibilities. In addition, focusing on flexibility when purchasing space assets can have a big impact. Furniture, which can meet multiple user’s needs, will play a key role in whether a space/room is used or sits empty.
The benefits of optimizing sustainability of building operations are multifaceted. Through our work, we challenged the operational status quo. An example of this was reducing the number of parking spaces at some of our campuses. We wanted to influence a behavioral change and increase staff and students use of alternative transportation. Also, as a publically-funded institution, we are required to develop business cases for much of the funding we receive. In our business cases, we highlight the long-term sustainability of investing in our infrastructure, which, to date, has been a very successful approach for us. It ensures that money invested in the college provides best value. The efficiencies introduced in our buildings through infrastructure changes and more efficient space utilization save the College over a $1 million each year. These recovered funds are reinvested into building upgrades in an effort to continuously improve and extend the life of the College’s buildings by addressing critical and deferred maintenance. By increasing the efficiency and capabilities of our buildings, we have built additional capacity within the same walls that did not exist before. For the College, this has resulted in an ability to grow our program offerings and increase the number of students at our Campuses.
Finally and most importantly, NSCC strives to lead by example. Sustainability is part of how NSCC does business and serves as a core value in our Strategic Plan. The college operates under a board-approved sustainability policy, and sustainability is embedded in all aspects of the learning experience. We create buildings that can be used as learning tools that enrich curriculum, foster research, and promote better understanding of responsible building practices for students and faculty, industry partners, and the public at large. In addition to the curriculum and training tools, students are learning ways to efficiently and sustainably run an operation. This will help them as they enter the workforce and implement these lessons learned. The College’s sustainability work also bolster student awareness, and ultimately encourages behavioral changes that are essential to continually improve not only the College’s, but the Community’s sustainability performance overall.

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
Which of the following STARS subcategories does the innovation most closely relate to? (Select all that apply up to a maximum of five):
Yes or No
Curriculum No
Research No
Campus Engagement No
Public Engagement No
Air & Climate Yes
Buildings Yes
Dining Services No
Energy Yes
Grounds No
Purchasing No
Transportation No
Waste Yes
Water No
Coordination, Planning & Governance No
Diversity & Affordability No
Health, Wellbeing & Work No
Investment No

Other topic(s) that the innovation relates to that are not listed above:

The website URL where information about the innovation is available:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:
Below is a recent magazine article relating to NSCC's efforts relating to space management. This article was requested following a NSCC's presentation at the 2016 AASHE conference.

Below is a recent magazine article relating to NSCC's efforts relating to space management. This article was requested following a NSCC's presentation at the 2016 AASHE conference.

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