The UBC Aquatic Centre is getting a major clean energy makeover thanks to a class project by a graduating green engineer and UBC staff member Jeff Giffin.
The $500,000 project, designed by Giffin in UBC’s new Masters of Engineering in Clean Energy program, will harvest waste steam condensate from neighboring buildings to heat the popular recreation centre’s indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
The environmental payoff will be big, reducing UBC’s carbon emissions by 450 tonnes (the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road), saving three swimming pools worth of water annually and improving the centre’s energy efficiency by more than 60 per cent.
“Projects like this are what engineers live for, to work on something that actually makes the world a better place,” says Giffin, 33, who moved from Boulder, Colorado to Vancouver three years ago when his wife began a PhD on neglected diseases at UBC. “I learned so much on this project, but knowing the university values it enough to make it real is a special feeling.”
That feeling won’t stop when he graduates on May 31, because Giffin will help oversee the project when construction begins as early as June. He has resumed a full time position at UBC’s Building Operations, after working part-time during the program.
As Alternative Energy Projects Manager, Giffin is responsible for helping UBC to achieve its ambitious carbon reduction targets, including the elimination of institutional GHGs by 2050. Despite working on more than $110-million in clean energy projects, Giffin admits he was a little nervous about sharing this project.
“One day I mentioned the project to my supervisor, kind of in passing, that I was looking at using waste energy to heat the Aquatic Centre,” says Giffin, who previously did a Bachelor of Inventions at the University of Colorado and has three patents to his name, including ski and snowboard bindings and a self-powered bike light.
“My boss asked me if there was a business case where the project would pays for itself in savings over two years—and there was,” says Giffin.
“We confirmed the technical assumptions with our internal experts and there’s been tremendous support for the project. It’s been pretty amazing.”