The South Shore Regional Centre for Education (SSRCE) has long identified savings as an opportunity to divert funds back into the classrooms.

For the past several years, SSRCE has taken a grass roots approach to reducing energy consumption. “We are very proud that in the first year alone, our organization was able to save $300,000, with little, to no, capital investment and has maintained a 20-25% annual savings, surpassing $1,000,000 in savings in less than four years,” shared Andy Selig, Operations Coordinator for SSRCE. “These savings enable us to improve the student learning experience and provide effective classroom tools and support, which is our primary, and most rewarding, motivation for our energy efficiency efforts.  That’s why the introduction to Ecopilot®’s technology was so exciting to our team.  We recognize that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a significant role in advancing our energy efficiency efforts.”

Andy shared with the EcoPilot Canada team that he’s often thought it would be a unique tool for automation systems to have the ability to control HVAC in response to the ever-changing parameters that impact comfort in a building. For instance, hundreds of students arriving in the morning, machines being turned on, cafeteria ovens firing up, as well as weather impact, like solar, wind, rain, etc.; which in Nova Scotia, is also a constantly changing variable. All of these factors play a critical role in how comfort is managed in a building, therefore, how energy will be used.

“That’s why, when I first met EcoPilot Canada, my first reaction was ‘finally!’ we have identified a tool that will consider those factors, plan for them and intelligently control our building management system (BMS) to allow for automatic and continuous energy savings.”

Ecopilot® is an integrated AI technology that optimizes the performance of a BMS system. The software acts as a ‘brain’ for the control system and makes real-time, automatic and continuous energy management decisions based on the short and long-term heating and cooling needs of a building.  The buildings thermodynamics, weather forecast and real-time internal temperature are the three main ingredients Ecopilot® uses to provide off-set changes to the BMS every 2-minutes.  Smarter, more dynamic, control delivers improved comfort and energy consumption savings.  “Our team concluded quickly that this software solution was the first step to moving our efficiency efforts from grass roots to sophisticated,” says Selig.

The Liverpool Regional High School site was selected for Ecopilot® as it met the rebate requirements for Efficiency Nova Scotia.   Based on the existing HVAC, EcoPilot Canada proposed the building be segmented into four zones based on areas the systems serve and would take intelligent control of the Air Handling Units (AHU) and electric baseboards.  Two Silicon Controlled Rectifier (SCR) would be added as part of our project to enable step control of the baseboard heaters.  For the AHU’s, Ecopilot® would offset the existing supply air temperature setpoint (+ or -) to reduce the energy required for heating while keeping the areas which the AHU’s are serving in a predefined temperature comfort range. For the electric baseboards, Ecopilot® will offset the SCR signal (0-100%) to reduce the amount of electricity required to keep the four zones in a predefined temperature comfort range.

The proposal estimated that Ecopilot®’s AI solution could deliver annual electricity savings of 11%, equating to 4 MWh.  This would mark the beginning of the South Shore Regional Centre for Education shifting energy efficiency efforts from common, well adopted measures to utilizing Artificial Intelligence.

Ecopilot® install began in the summer of 2019 and on October 1 of 2019, Ecopilot® officially went live and took intelligent control of the high school’s heating and ventilation systems.   The process was seamless, with the bulk of the work completed remotely by the Ecopilot® tech team.

Within six months of Ecopilot® control (October 2019 to March 2020), Liverpool Regional High School has reported electricity savings of 14%.  There were no complaints in reported months, another key factor in determining success of any project.

Ecopilot®’s main software dashboard displays real-time energy savings as well as an interactive floor plan / heat map that provides a snapshot of how the building is performing based on desired comfort range.  It also allows the user to dig further to see why a room / zone is not within the specified comfort range.

From the minute the AI project went live, Ecopilot® was able to identify several issues within the buildings’ systems:

  1. Ecopilot® quickly pointed out that the mixed air damper in one of the AHU’s was not modulating as the building automation system was calling for. This could have been happening for months, or even years, before Ecopilot® was installed. As a result, the damper was physically inspected, and the actuator motor had disconnected from the damper.  A very simple fix which will save energy and create a more comfortable space.
  2. Ecopilot® noticed immediately that all AHU’s were starting at the same time, increasing demand peak.
  3. Ecopilot® noticed that SCRs in the AHU’s were very quickly going to 100%, which was over-heating the air and again, increasing consumption and peak demand.

For the SSRCE team, embracing technology that is seamlessly installed and easily operated is critical to maintain day-to-day school operations. During the install process, the SSRCE team worked closely with Ecopilot® technicians who provided training, advice and support needed to ensure overall success.  The team continues to meet quarterly with a dedicated Project Manager and an Energy Efficiency Expert who continue to make recommendations for improved efficiency, and fine tune Ecopilot® efficiency.

“It’s important to recognize the role that software can play in how we manage and operate our buildings; especially in the advancement it can deliver to reduce energy consumption,” says Selig.  “Automatic, continuous and results driven are all key components we experienced with Ecopilot® and ones we believe can advance the building automation industry. Ecopilot® is working in the background, 24/7, and alleviating the expense, time and effort required to manually achieve similar results.  Automation of our HVAC energy savings allows us to focus on other initiatives, like daily operations or long-term maintenance planning.  Utilizing the same assets, we are saving energy, extending the life of equipment, and identifying issues we weren’t aware of.  Integration of Ecopilot® is delivering minute-to-minute energy optimization of Liverpool Regional High School and added a level of intelligence to our BMS.  The more traditional energy savings initiatives, though rewarding and successful, have been elevated to automated sophistication which can make a significant difference from a saving and carbon reduction standpoint, as well as how the building will operate the facility in the future.”

No matter the sector of business building managers operate in, saving money means it can be allocated to something else and reducing carbon means we’ve done the right thing for the environment.  For SSRCE, the savings achieved will be re-directed to the classroom.  “We are proud to be a part of a region committed to sustainability and in time, hope to use this project as an example of building a better future for our students, which is important to the communities we serve,” Selig concludes.

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