In the future, there will be no such thing as waste heat. That’s what the award-winning VanCity Heat Reclaim project is teaching us.

SES and VanCity were just announced as one of the recipients of this years Clean 50 Project awards. These awards recognize outstanding contributors to clean capitalism.

What started out as a simple end of life boiler replacement, ended up eliminating 95% of the building’s natural gas and 75% of it’s greenhouse gas emissions along with substantial amounts of domestic water consumption. All with a bit of vision, and the belief that there is no such thing as waste heat.

The Vancity Head Office is home to one of their main data centers. What a lot of people don’t realize is that data centers, server rooms, or any electrical circuits  produce heat from their electrical input at a one-to-one ratio. That is, every unit of electrical energy drawn by the system to power the machines is returned to the room in full by way of heat. Even a small server system can present huge opportunities to reclaim the heat and put it to use in the rest of the building. All this waste heat in the space also requires year-round cooling as well, creating an even greater energy load. The Vancity building is 12 stories tall and the data center occupies less than half of the third floor. As it turns out, that’s enough to heat the entire building when it is more than 5°C outside.

To start, SES conducted an investigation of 9 different heating options, including various boiler and heat-pump configurations and a tie-in to The False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU). After weighing the practical, financial, and environmental criteria, installing a Heat Recovery Chiller on the Condenser Water Loop was the clear winner.

The project was not without its challenges. New control sequences had to be designed and staging of the chiller and boiler were to be carefully managed by direct digital control (DDC). Physically installing the equipment was a challenge in itself. The chiller was hoisted by crane to the roof of the 12-story building and carefully coaxed through the 32″ penthouse doorway with an inch to spare.

One of the most powerful predictors of success on this project, was the willingness of all the team members to work together to find effective innovative solutions. SES was fortunate to be working with the visionaries at VanCity and a great project team including Trane and Johnson Controls.

With this first innovative project a resounding success, we look forward to the day when waste heat is obsolete.