Typically at UBC, we talk about building over surface parking lots and discouraging vehicle traffic to and from campus while promoting sustainable alternatives like public transit. It’s rare for us to get an opportunity to talk about how parking on campus is helping UBC meet its commitment to sustainability. But a major project to retrofit the lighting fixtures in UBC’s parking facilities gives us a chance to discuss how replacing old lights with the latest “T8” energy-efficient lamps and electronic ballasts can reduce electrical power consumption by as much as 70%.

“We started work on the first parkade in 2005,” explains Tyler Stangier, Facilities Manager, Parking and Access Control Services. “Since then we have retrofitted all the other parkades, one by one. We also built a new parkade, Thunderbird, in 2008, with the T8 flourescents built in. And we did some control work as well, to turn off some of the perimeter lighting and put it on to photocell controls.”

The overall savings, in both energy and costs, have been phenomenal. “In total before retrofits, we consumed around 4.8 million kilowatt hours annually,” says Stangier. “Since the retrofits we are down to about 2.4 million. Almost all that energy use is lighting. So we cut our use in half just by retrofitting old HPS [high-pressure sodium] and T12 fixtures to T8 flourescents with high-efficiency electronic ballast.”

In monetary terms, that means spending on lighting in the six parkades has dropped from a high of about $380,000 in 2007–2008 to around $225,000 in 2010–2011, and is expected to fall under $200,000 in 2011–2012.

Stangier adds that Parking and Access Control Services are continuing to explore new ways to save energy in their parking facilities. For instance they are looking at new technology that can dim the lights in the early hours rather than leave them on full strength 24/7.

“The parkades are typically very quiet, especially on the upper levels, by midnight, and dead until six in the morning. Then traffic starts to arrive around seven. So there are more opportunities for energy savings there.”

They are also looking at regulating the lighting for the stairwells, which are presently lit 24/7, despite having glass sides and being exposed to exterior daylight. “There is no reason for them to be on all day, we could put them on motion monitors. There are significant opportunities for savings there, too.”

Thirdly, the department is looking at better regulating the heating system for the Rose Garden Parkade, which is currently on 365 days a year, regardless of the outside temperature. “This is consuming a lot of needless energy,” says Stangier. “A preliminary report estimated we could save about $3,000 annually in energy costs.”

Finally, Parking and Access Control Services is studying the lighting in the surface parking lots. “There aren’t many left, but in the ones we do have, there may be an opportunity to install some LED lights and make some further savings there,” according to Stangier.

“Tyler’s leadership and achievements in reducing parking energy consumption are a key part of achieving UBC’s sustainability targets,” says Orion Henderson, Director, Operational Sustainability, Campus Sustainability. “And they illustrate that through our conservation partnership with BC Hydro, we can aggressively reduce energy consumption while reducing operational costs.”