BCIT has BC’s largest piping trades training facility, offering the widest scope of programs, and has been the leading provider of training for the last 50 years. It is predicted that the inflow of students will increase significantly in the next few years as the industry continues to grow. The Piping Trades program ensure that students gain hands-on experience in working with plumbing, steam-fitting, gas-fitting, and sprinkler-fitting. Welding is an important skill that students learn while in the program.
Problem and/or Opportunity
In order to weld, students of the Piping Trades program need a space with proper ventilation to ensure a safe working environment. Welding generates pollutants and if done so indoors without proper ventilation, will significantly reduce indoor air quality.
Three solutions were proposed:
- Constant volume ventilation system
- Ventilation system with variable frequency drive (VFD)
- Outdoor welding facility
While installing a mechanical ventilation system would solve the problem, it will also increase the consumption of electricity and natural gas. The addition of a VFD would allow for more control over air flow so that fans do not operate at full capacity during times when the shop is quiet. However, a VFD-based system would have a higher initial cost.
With consideration of energy consumption and costs, and having had success with the outdoor covered instruction area used by Carpentry Foundation and Carpentry Apprentice program, the outdoor welding facility between NE4 and NE6 emerged as the most favourable choice. This new workspace would take advantage of the area’s mild climate by offering students protection from some of the elements, while also providing similar conditions to those that could be experienced in the workplace. With a roof featuring skylights and compatibility with technology such as solar panels and micro thermal grid distribution pipes, the new outdoor workshops will create a space that will be more energy-efficient and safer.
These learning spaces are flexible and allow for multiple configurations based on program needs. More specifically, the covered workshop between NE4 and NE6 will expand workspace capacity for the pipefitting program and create a more realistic learning environment for students. This is a great example of how sometimes technological solutions can be very simple.
Technologies to be Implemented
- The indented roof south facing slope is solar panel (PV) ready, i.e. has the proper angle for Burnaby’s latitude and is structurally ready for the added load.
- The indented roof north facing slope will consist of skylights so artificial light is not needed in the middle of a bright sunny day.
- The structure is load ready for suspending the smart micro thermal grid distribution pipes (hot water) between factor four buildings and the biomass facility.
- Adaptive LED lighting will be used for ensuring proper light levels on cloudy days or at night.
- The lighting system will be on a schedule.
By bringing the welding activities outside, energy that would be needed for an indoor ventilation system will be conserved. To understand the order of magnitude for these savings calculations were made for the two types of systems discussed above, a constant volume and a VFD system.
Energy for a ventilation system is used mainly for three processes, 1) to bring fresh air from outside inside, 2) to heat the incoming outside air to room temperature conditions and 3) to extract the air with pollutants. The energy required for processes 1 and 3 is in the form electricity for the motor that drives the supply and exhaust fan. Energy for process 2 is in the form of natural gas to produce hot water which heats the incoming air. The calculations for the energy required for this processes were performed in can be found in the project folder below. In short, the electricity was estimated based on the HP of the motors and run times, while the natural gas was estimated using the specific heat equation for air. Below are the main assumptions used to perform these calculations.
- The size of the exhaust fan (EF) and supply fan (SF) motors required is 25HP.
- In the constant volume model, fans run constantly during teaching hours.
- For the VFD model, an estimation of the percentage of booths being used throughout the day is used to estimate the capacity at which the VFD will run and amount of time.
- Based on similar systems, the maximum air flow of the system required is 7500 CFM.
- Air is heated to an average of 11.7 heating degree days per day.
With these assumptions the following results are obtained that summarize the savings in energy and costs achieved by not installing these systems and instead use a more innovative approach of saving energy, to weld outside. It is also worth mentioning that initial costs and maintenance cost would have to be included to have the full picture of the project benefits.
Constant volume system: 176,872 kWh/year VFD system: 5,437 kWh/year
Constant volume system: $25,548/year VFD system: $8,290/year
Additional Benefits and Features
Realistic Learning Environment
Atmospheric gases, especially oxygen and water vapour, can create difficulties in welding and reduce the quality of the weld. In order for the weld to form properly, inert gas shielding is used. As welding in the workplace is often done outside, it is valuable for students to know how to cope with strong winds that may push the inert gases away. Welding outside will allow the students to understand conditions in a more realistic work environment.
Indoor Air Quality
Welding produces pollutants such as dust, fumes, and other harmful elements that can reduce indoor air quality. As a result, ventilation is needed for indoor welding to ensure the health and safety of workers. Moving welding operations outdoor will eliminate the need for mechanical ventilation and create a healthier work environment for staff and students as fumes will naturally disperse in an open environment.
Expand Learning Space
BCIT has BC’s largest piping trades training facility and the school expects an increase in student intake. Expanding the learning space will accommodate the students and reduce the waitlist. Furthermore, the expansion will involve upgrades to the welding facility to accommodate for the growing industry.
The skylights on a north-facing slope will reduce the need for artificial lighting during a sunny day. Additionally, the roofs are also designed to be compatible with renewable energy components. The structure will be able to accommodate smart micro thermal grid distribution pipes, suspended under the roof, between factor four buildings and the biomass facility. It will also south-facing slope for the fitting of solar panels and angled for its specific location maximize the input of solar radiation.
Project Fast Facts
- Students in Piping Trades program require a safe environment for welding with proper air ventilation/
- Three solutions were available: 1) constant volume ventilation system; 2) ventilation system with VFD; 3) outdoor welding facility. Option 3 is most favourable.
- Estimated energy consumption of option 1 is 176,872 kWh/year and would cost $25,548/year
- Estimated energy consumption of option 2 is 5,437 kWh/year and would cost $8,290/year
- Outdoor covered workshop between NE4 and NE6 will expand workspace capacity for the pipefitting program
- Skylights will be incorporated into the north-facing slope of roof to reduce need for artificial lighting
- South-facing slope allow for the installation of solar panels, and are angled to maximize insolation on panels
- Structure can accommodate the addition of microthermal grid distribution pipes between Factor Four buildings and the biomass facility.
- The outdoor workspace creates a more realistic and healthier environment for students and staff.
For more information about the Trades and Technology Centre initiative and to follow its progress, visit https://www.bcit.ca/facilities/campus-development/current-initiatives/trades-technology-centre/