Prism's detailed lighting audit services illuminate the University of British Columbia's commitment to sustainability

Established in 1908, the University of British Columbia (UBC) educates a student population of 50,000 on major campuses in two cities and holds an international reputation for excellence in advanced research and learning. In 1990, UBC pledged to make sustainability the foundation for campus operations, research and teaching. Seven years later, it became Canada's first university to adopt a sustainable development policy.


"Prism Engineering played a key role in helping UBC show leadership in energy efficiency and sustainability. We turned to Prism early in our efforts to reduce energy use on campus. We used their expertise in lighting audit and design to put together the initial pilot projects that helped convince senior administration that energy management projects could indeed pay for themselves. Prism's staff was extremely professional and brought innovative solutions to many of the unique issues found on a campus as diverse as UBC."

--Jorge Marques, Energy Manager, UBC, 1997--2007


As part of its ongoing sustainability campaign, UBC pledged to reduce campus energy consumption to below 1998 levels. It focused strategically on lighting in a number of buildings on its main campus. Most of the facilities in question were built between the early 1920s and mid-1980s, presenting a wide variety of equipment types and installation issues to deal with. Adding to the complexity of the project, some of the buildings were designated heritage sites containing "feature" or "period" luminaires, and any retrofit had to ensure that these sites retained their original character.


UBC initially hired Prism in the mid 1990s to conduct a detailed lighting audit and energy analysis for 11 buildings containing over 93,000 square metres (one million square feet) of floor area on its main campus. Prism was then retained to conduct lighting audits as part of a design-build project for an additional 40 buildings. This work required on-site physical evaluation and systematic review of buildings comprising an additional 279,000 square metres (three million square feet) of floor area.

As part of their detailed lighting audit and energy analysis, Prism undertook the following tasks:

  • surveying existing lighting conditions and compiling an inventory on a room-by-room basis
  • identifying occupant requirements and concerns regarding light levels in cooperation with the facility manager and key building occupants
  • determining operating schedules and estimating hours of operation based on information from metered data, discussions with occupants, and site visits
  • identifying energy-saving opportunities with respect to the lighting systems
  • estimating upgrade costs and installation requirements
  • providing room-by-room retrofit and upgrade schedules
  • preparing a lighting feasibility report compiling results


Energy savings identified by Prism for the more than 50 campus buildings audited included:

  • a reduction in demand of over 3,100 kilowatts and consumption savings of over 13.3 million kilowatt hours annually, representing annual energy cost savings of nearly $500,000
  • lighting savings varying from 30% to 70% per building

Induction Lighting at UBC

Induction lighting is an extremely long-life, compact light source using a plasma globe, induction coil and generator. This type of lighting is ideal for difficult-to-reach and high-mounted locations where regular maintenance is costly and inconvenient. The long life of the induction lamp made it an ideal candidate for the retrofit of the lighting system in the UBC Main Library. In the library's high-ceilinged atrium, there were 10 seven-foot-diameter octagonal antique stained-glass luminaires, mounted 12 metres (40 feet) above the floor. Prism worked with a local luminaire manufacturer to convert these units from multiple incandescent lamps to two 165-watt induction lamps per luminaire. Nine years after installation (and counting), the lamps are still going strong and have not required replacement.