Increasing savings with powerful controls and efficient lighting at BC’s largest casino

The River Rock Casino, located in Richmond, BC, welcomes an average of 10,000 guests per day to its 6,500 square meters of gaming space and 222 hotel rooms. With most of its grounds open 24 hours, 7 days a week, there were significant opportunities to save energy at the site.


The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC) is committed to increasing the energy efficiency of its gaming facilities across North America. The River Rock Casino is a prime example of this commitment. In early 2009, through operational changes and lighting retrofits, the casino reduced energy consumption by 850,000 kWh and gas consumption by 2,500 GJ, providing annual savings of approximately $60,000.

As a result of this success, GCGC commissioned Prism Engineering to conduct an energy audit in November 2009. Funded by BC Hydro, the challenge was to identifying further opportunities for improvement by focusing on major mechanical systems, direct digital controls, and further lighting improvements.


Prism began with several visits to the site under the guidance of Energy Manager and Chief Engineer, Mike Urbas. Our engineers audited the heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, reviewed system controls, and conducted a high-level lighting audit. With the collected data, we generated heating and cooling energy use models to help identify and analyse potential opportunities. The final report included a list of retrofit alternatives that could be implemented at the casino, along with a summary of our recommendations.

The purpose of Prism's recommendations was to reduce energy, but also to maintain GCGC’s performance and financial guidelines. These guidelines include maintenance requirements, consideration of impact to guest experience, cost of retrofitting versus cost of replacing systems, as well as maintaining a reasonable payback. In keeping with these guidelines, Prism provided a variety of possible solutions for saving energy at River Rock Casino, which included:

  • installing occupancy sensors within the theatre, conference hall, and banquet halls
  • optimizing chiller controls
  • optimizing control sequences of various air handling systems
  • implementing a booking system to put unoccupied hotel rooms in setback mode
  • installing a keycard system to put occupied hotel rooms in setback mode
  • installing a variable frequency drive and occupancy controls to control a pool waterslide pump
  • replacing incandescent lamps with compact fluorescents
  • retrofitting fluorescent luminaires with T8 lamps


Although the River Rock Casino had already made operational changes and completed lighting retrofits prior to our energy audit, Prism identified numerous additional efficiency improvements. It was estimated that the following annual savings could be achieved:

  • 910,000 kWh in electrical savings
  • 4,400 GJ in gas savings
  • 250 tonnes of equivalent CO2 in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions

The client’s response to the study, which predicted a 5 year simple payback for the projects, was extremely positive. River Rock executives were impressed and felt that our recommendations met or exceeded their efficiency goals. Mike Urbas applauded the usefulness of the energy audit, stating:

"The energy study came up with a lot of energy-saving projects, with simple payback calculated for each one. Now we can choose which projects to do now and which ones to do later. It would be extremely difficult, in my opinion, to do any significant energy reductions in a building if you didn't have this kind of information.”

Urbas has implemented 10 of the recommended projects, resulting in $100,000 in electricity savings, and has since commissioned energy audits of the Fraser Downs and Boulevard Casinos.