UBC Graduate Research

AMS Nest : Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2025 Vallenas, Amzy; Monticelli, Davi; Antoniw, Julia; French, Victoria


The Alma Mater Society (AMS) student Nest is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-platinum certified building located on the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Vancouver campus. The AMS recognizes the impacts of climate change on current and future generations and the urgency to operate in a manner which is sustainable. As a result, the AMS aims to emit net zero direct carbon emissions from the Nest by the year 2025. This project provides an avenue to reach this goal by analyzing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from the Nest through an emissions inventory report and developing a 5-year management plan. The emissions studied in this project are scopes 1 and 2 emissions, which account for all direct emissions related to building operations and emissions released from the purchase of energy. The data presented in this report was collected from Skyspark and through communications with building operations, UBC energy and water services, and other UBC/AMS groups. An inventory report of GHG contributors at the Nest was compiled and details emission from the following sources: electricity use, thermal energy from the Academic District energy system (hot water (HW) & steam), natural gas consumption, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems (HVAC), and AMS-owned catering vehicle use. Total emissions from 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 are calculated to be 643,594, 82,099, 466,139, and 483,301 kgCO2e, respectively. Reconstruction of the Academic District Energy System (ADES) from steam-powered to hot water-powered explains the drastic shift downward in emissions during 2018. In 2019, the percent of emissions from hot water ADES (43%) and natural gas (36%) account for the majority of total emissions. The remaining percent of emissions are from electricity (19%), HVAC (2%), and AMS-owned vehicles (<1%). In analyzing the emissions data over the four years, total emissions appear to increase with the number of students attending UBC and the amount of UBC faculty and staff. Variables, like day of the week and monthly seasonality, were examined and it was found that emissions are significantly lower on the weekends (Friday-Sunday) and during summer months. Also, the amount of biomass relative to natural gas used to power the hot water ADES increases during the summer, which can help explain lower emissions during these months. Seasonality can also be related to the number of people using the Nest, as there may be times of low student/faculty activity A 5-year management plan for reducing and compensating the Nest’s emissions to net zero is presented. Short-term strategies, to be implemented within the next two years, and long-term strategies, implemented within the next five years are discussed. Short-term reduction strategies consist of WiFi heating and cooling, light shelves, smart plugs, and wind turbines. Long-term reduction strategies involve installing an upgraded building management system, doubling the amount solar thermal panels, switching to renewable natural gas, and converting to electric catering vehicles. Employing all reduction strategies is projected to reduce approximately 65% of the total building emissions in 2025 when compared to 2019. It is recommended that the remaining emissions not captured by reduction strategies are compensated by offsets, which are already instituted by UBC but can be further investigated for the Nest specifically. The total capital cost of all strategies is $2,272,446 Canadian dollars (CAD). Strategies that can yield high emissions reductions relative to capital cost and short implementation time are recommended to be prioritized, i.e., Wi-Fi controlled heating and cooling, smart plugs, and switching to renewable natural gas (RNG). Visual strategies, including the wind turbines and solar panels, may have lower emissions reduction potential compared to the strategies aforementioned. However, they can also act as social initiatives to garner interest in the AMS’s sustainability goals and inspire change across campus. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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