The new year is often a time for reflection. We sat down with Prism’s President and Team Leaders to chat about what organizations should consider in 2024 and beyond.

With many organizations setting carbon reduction goals for 2030, 2040, and 2050, time is of the essence.

“Achieving significant reductions takes know-how, funding and time,” says Robert Greenwald, P.Eng., President of Prism Engineering.

“In 2024, it will be imperative for organizations that want to achieve their 2030 objectives to move forward with the next steps for decarbonization, no matter what phase they are in: planning, funding, or design. The time to change systems for a better world is now,” he adds.

Here are a few key industry trends that will help your organization move its sustainability and decarbonization efforts forward:

System Drivers Point to Climate Action

The Sustainability and Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) landscape has rapidly evolved over the last decade. From a global to local level, organizations and government bodies are creating strategies and plans and setting targets to achieve a low-carbon and resilient future.

Over the last few years, we have seen the consolidation of ESG reporting standards and regulatory frameworks that send a clear signal to organizations and business. What was once done at an organization’s discretion is now becoming an expectation.

“Globally, we’re watching the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) commit to standardizing climate-related disclosures for investors, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS) launch climate and sustainability disclosure accounting standards and the European Union adopt the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), which requires ESG reporting for EU companies starting in January 2024. These long-awaited developments will drive the whole market. We’re watching the industry formalize itself. A unified set of reporting standards gives us a common language to work from. It will help organizations develop sustainability and decarbonization strategies, as well as understand and benchmark progress.” says Sarah Smith, M.Urb., Principal and Sustainability Team Leader.

“Locally, the City of Vancouver implemented carbon pollution limits and reporting for existing large commercial and multi-family buildings. There are now regulatory requirements for these buildings and the first reporting deadline is in June,” she adds.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change continues to call for greater action to avoid the most harmful impacts of climate change, these are all welcome steps in the right direction.

“As we enter 2024, there are various drivers in the system signalling to organizations that they need to do something around climate change – from market trends to client expectations. We’re seeing momentum,” Sarah explains.

At Prism, we offer a comprehensive suite of services to help our clients understand and respond to the global and local sustainability and ESG landscape. From assessments to strategy to implementation to reporting, we can help your organization understand its current context, create a sustainability vision for the future, and develop a plan to get there.

Electrical Planning Reports

BC has ambitious plans to increase the number of EV charging stations across the province in the coming years. To meet the growing demand for electric vehicles, the BC Government, in partnership with BC Hydro, FortisBC, and NRCan, is providing incentives for the purchase and installation of EV chargers for homes and workplaces.

The Province has also introduced measures to encourage strata corporations to install EV charging stations. Under the new regulations, strata corporations must obtain electrical planning reports to show they have the necessary capacity for future upgrades, including charging stations. The deadlines for compliance may vary depending on the area and the number of strata units.

An electrical system assessment and planning report can support capital planning by providing recommendations for equipment replacement. In addition to EV chargers, these reports can provide recommendations for equipment efficiency changes, utility upgrade requirements, future HVAC system updates, as well as carbon reduction strategies.

“These assessments and reports make so much sense because installing EV chargers is not as simple as many would like to think,” says Casey Gaetz, Principal and Electrical Team Leader. “Building systems’ needs are evolving. We can’t start plugging things in and hoping for the best, nor can we replace like-for-like systems without a proper assessment. We must consider future growth needs, as well as carbon reduction targets.”

Electrical Planning Reports are an effective step to ensure the reliability, safety, and efficiency of a building’s electrical systems. They can help building owners, managers, and operators identify end-of-life equipment and plan for its replacement before it fails.

Voltage Conversion

As BC Hydro begins to upgrade portions of the power grid in the Lower Mainland (from 4 kilovolts (kV) or 12.47kV to 25kV), building owners and managers will need to consider this change when replacing or upgrading the main electrical service to larger buildings. They will also need to consider purchasing new equipment that is rated for both their buildings’ existing voltage requirement, as well as 25kV.

“A Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) is the best way to identify capital planning needs, such as building upgrades and new equipment requirements,” says Casey. This assessment reviews building system performance and provides a plan to either renew, repair or replace equipment.

“An FCA is also useful to anticipate certain situations. Facility owners and managers, for example, may realize they don’t have enough space for the new equipment, or how to deal with power outages while the new equipment is installed. We can help them with planning and how to make these decisions,” he adds.

Energy Studies

Iram Green, P.Eng., Principal and Energy Team Leader, believes recommissioning, energy, and energy feasibility studies are important for organizations wanting to achieve higher levels of energy efficiency and meet their carbon reduction targets.

Last year, BC Hydro expanded its program offering for large commercial customers. This offering includes Integrated Energy Audits and feasibility studies, incentives, as well as strategic energy management (SEM) programs.

“Energy and energy feasibility studies are two of the most effective ways to identify energy and cost saving opportunities, develop a decarbonization plan, assess what can be done to upgrade the systems and move forward with implementation based on a solid plan,” he explains.

One fun way to kickstart an energy study or a feasibility study is by conducting a “Treasure Hunt”. This activity encourages employees to “hunt” for energy conservation opportunities during a virtual or on-site walk through of processes and systems. This activity helps to develop a trusting relationship between the organization’s operations team and the consultant, sparks conversations about ideas to address existing issues and fosters a culture of continuous improvement towards energy management.

Considering Impacts Across Systems

Facility owners and managers need to be aware that any changes made in a building can have far-reaching impacts on various systems. This is especially true for mechanical systems, which tend to use the most energy in a building.

“Projects today are far broader than they were in the past, and their implementation phases have become more complex,” says Stephen Kooiman, P.Eng. and M.A.Sc., Principal and Mechanical Team Leader.

“In the past, we used to upgrade and optimize specific systems to achieve 20-30% energy savings. Today, with the current need for clean electricity usage to aggressively reduce emissions by 70-80%, we end up having to take into consideration many more elements to integrate to make this happen,” he explains.

This is especially true for Deep Carbon Retrofit projects, which require a cross-disciplinary approach involving the traditional electrical, energy and mechanical engineers, along with architectural and structural expertise. These projects can be extremely effective in reducing GHG emissions because it takes a wholistic approach to minimize energy consumption and maximize low carbon heating options.

Steps Towards a Low Carbon and Resilient Future

These key trends paint an exciting picture. From the consolidation of global ESG reporting standards to preparing our local buildings and fleets for low carbon electrification opportunities, efforts to mitigate and address the impacts of climate change are gaining momentum. Industries and organizations are moving from planning to implementation. At all levels of government, from global to local, and across industries and communities, we are progressing towards a low-carbon and resilient future.

Prism is committed to helping organizations achieve their energy, climate, and asset renewal objectives by integrating engineering, energy management, and sustainability services.

Contact us to discuss how our services can best support your organization in changing systems for a better world.