Historic New Brunswick school receives energy efficiency makeover
By Carolyn Cooper
When the oldest publicly-funded high school in Canada required energy efficiency upgrades last year, it turned to Thomas Industrial Sales.
Saint John High School was founded in 1805 in Saint John, NB as a boys grammar school, and merged with a newly created girls high school in 1874. A fire in 1876 destroyed those schools, but the building that would become the current school opened in 1897.
Additional buildings were added to the facility in 1932 and in 1964, and in 1986 when the school completed a major renovation, which included updating electrical systems. Heating systems varied throughout the years, ranging from coal steam boilers to different oil boilers.
“The heating system was the third heating system since the school was built, and the boilers were from the 1960s era,” says Daron Thomas, president of Fredericton, NB-based Thomas Industrial Sales Ltd., a manufacturer’s representative responsible for ordering and delivering the equipment, startup and commissioning. The project was engineered by Dillon Consulting Ltd. and completed by George’s Plumbing & Heating.
Today the school is heated by two Viessmann natural gas condensing boilers with 2,500 MBH input each, says Thomas. “Natural gas was available and the province was changing from oil heating to natural gas heating. The entire boiler room mechanical system was upgraded with six Wilo pumps with smart drives, Security Chimneys International Duravent Group venting system, a Viessmann BacNet integration panel, Wessels Company air scoop and expansion tank, and Neutra-Safe condensate neutralizer tanks.”
Thomas says the project presented some challenges due to the age of the building. “The existing mechanical room was built in the 1960s. Prior to that the mechanical system was in the basement, originally being coal-fired steam. Newer steam boilers were installed in the basement but when the system was converted to hot water, everything moved to the first floor.”
However, Thomas says the real difficulty “was the timing and delivery, so we worked closely with Viessmann, George’s and the school to ensure the project could be completed in a timely manner for school to open in the fall. The project was awarded late in the school year, but with shop drawings and other general hurdles there were significant pressures on ensuring the delivery of the components. The school and mechanical contractor had to devise plans should a temporary boiler be required. We worked closely with our suppliers to ensure we had the product and could deliver when expected.”
The project also included some unique innovations, including several smart systems. “The use of smart pumps and primary loops, where all the flow goes through the boilers, rather than closely spaced tees or a low loss header, was unique,” says Thomas. “The piping system, headers and other components remained in place, when the pumps were replaced – so the overall piping system did not change.”
The Renovation Project
The renovation project, which also included the installation of new windows and upgrades to the roof, will allow the school to save energy and money. “The previous oil boilers were non-condensing and had limited controls,” says Thomas. “Although the combustion efficiency was probably in the low 80s, the new boilers will be up to 20 per cent more efficient and utilize space input to limit the water temperature to enhance condensing. The variable speed pumps are utilized for a greater system delta T. Although the radiation remained, requiring high temperatures under design, opportunities were utilized to influence the boilers’ condensing capabilities.”