Back. In a breeze

How a major school board improved air quality during a critical time.

The story

Spanning 7,800 square kilometres, an Eastern Ontario school board is home to 21 schools serving more than 4,700 students across 14 communities.

Valued for their safe, caring and respectful learning environments, these schools are beloved by staff, students and families alike.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board faced a mountainous challenge: the safety of everyone.

Thanks in part to federal-provincial funding, the Board got the support it needed to improve the air quality in several of its schools. It was a major accomplishment, as some of the older schools had never operated with mechanical ventilation. The funding was made available until the end of the calendar year, so the Board had to plan and act quickly. Adding to this challenge,

the Board didn't want to further disrupt the students' lives - they'd been through enough during the pandemic - which left only the summer months to complete the work.

At the same time, a different opportunity presented itself. With significant upgrades to ventilation already planned, the timing was right to trade the electric heating systems in some of the schools for a more cost-effective alternative.

Lastly, these schools needed a cooling solution, too. Opening a window might've helped in the past. With temperatures rising in the early and late school year, proper air conditioning was paramount to keep students and staff comfortable.

Hitting the books

With lots of work to do, and little time to do it, the Board needed a partner that could deliver with no compromise to quality. Its students and faculty depended on it.

The Board engaged Envari to handle all facets of the job in three of its schools. As a design build company, Envari handled everything from start to finish, offering a unified workflow to beat the time crunch.

But it was more than that. With natural gas unavailable in such a rural area, the Board needed a strategic recommendation for heating. Propane is a common alternative, but it's not sustainable, and a cost comparison revealed only minimal savings compared to the existing electric baseboards.

Envari determined heat-pump systems to be the most viable solution.

With a three-to-one coefficient of performance, not only can the heat-pumps reduce heating costs by up to 60%, but they also provide the added benefit of cooling.

Better yet, they help offset the increased operational costs of the new mechanical ventilation system. A win-win.

Improving the learning experience

Sometimes, we can all benefit from being students. With new HVAC upgrades designed, installed and commissioned in three of its schools, it only made sense that the Board understood how the systems performed.

Envari made it easy by connecting the new equipment to a building automation system and a centralized supervisory computer at the Board's head office. Having this single access point empowers the Board to better monitor and manage its HVAC equipment in real time.

As well, since the schools are spread out across a vast area, the Board can also save time and energy troubleshooting issues remotely - even from a cell phone.

A pass with flying colours

Retrofitting a facility as vital as a school is never an easy task - more so if you're strapped for time. By working with one partner from end to end, the Board was able to welcome students back to a safe environment on time. Not only that, but these schools are now well equipped for a more efficient, more sustainable future, helping students thrive for years to come.

From our initial feasibility studies to our close collaboration with stakeholders, contractors and manufacturers, Envari was proud to be involved in such a great initiative, elevating safety, cost savings and environmental benefits.

Have a project with similar needs? Contact us today to learn more about our wide range of building and energy transformation services.

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