A company-defining project implementing much-needed energy and water efficiency upgrades to over 40 school buildings on Vancouver's North Shore

The facilities of the North Vancouver School District (NVSD) comprise over 40 school buildings in which comprehensive education from kindergarten through Grade 12 is offered. These facilities serve the needs of approximately 16,800 students and more than 2,500 full- and part-time teaching staff and support workers.


"The work performed by Prism Engineering allowed the school board administration to present an excellent business case for proceeding with the work … a deal that could not be refused. Predicting the energy consumption of a group of buildings and the associated economics of doing retrofits is a real strength of this firm."

--Jeff Jackson, B.Tech CEM BEP CSDP, Maintenance Manager, School District 44 (North Vancouver)


In 2000, the NVSD's numerous facilities ranged in age from 30 to nearly 90 years and many were far from being energy efficient. The district recognized the urgent need to update the buildings with a view to reducing operating costs. With little capital available for the state-of-the-art energy and water efficiency retrofit contemplated, the NVSD faced a huge challenge.


Prism carried out detailed energy and water audits for 41 schools to determine savings potential. Energy management measures that were identified and implemented included the following:

  • lighting system upgrades and replacement with more efficient technologies
  • occupancy sensor controls in classrooms and gymnasiums
  • heating, ventilation and air conditioning automation for all buildings, allowing the NVSD to shut down systems for the holidays with a single button
  • boiler efficiency upgrades
  • carbon dioxide sensors to control ventilation in gyms according to occupancy
  • urinal shutoff-valve controls via direct digital control system
  • installation of motion sensor--activated controls for vending machines

"A project of this size requires finding solutions that go outside of a 'cookie cutter' approach; two similarly sized and shaped rooms in the same facility often require different approaches and solutions. This allowed us an opportunity for innovation--to 'play' with the systems in a space and make it work for the occupants. As a designer, there is no greater satisfaction than having users enthusiastically thank you for solving a problem that they had tolerated for years and felt was unsolvable."

--Andrew Munro, Prism Engineering


The outstanding results achieved and accolades received by the $4-million retrofit included:

  • a 70% reduction in water usage
  • a 28% reduction in natural gas consumption
  • a 19% reduction in electricity use
  • a 1,100 tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • approximately $600,000 in annual water and energy costs saved
  • a BC Hydro Power Smart Partner Excellence Award received by the NVSD in 2003