Calgary engineer takes on new community role, putting plans for eco-friendly building into motion

·2 min read

It was only four months ago that David Desabrais started his new role as municipal energy project lead for Pincher Creek and he’s already heading up his first big project.

The oil-and-gas-worker-turned-environmentalist is working with both town and MD councils to make local buildings more energy efficient, and at the top of his list is the multipurpose facility on Main Street. The complex houses the ice arena, the indoor swimming pool, a private gym, the library and the town’s recreation office.

Beginning next month, the facility will undergo significant transformations that will see a new building management system added, upgraded pool technology installed, and pipes and valves in the mechanical room properly insulated.

The multipurpose facility is one of the largest energy emitters in town, says Desabrais, who determined the building produced a whopping 12,500 gigajoules of power over the course of 2019, costing town council and taxpayers $160,000.

“We’re estimating the cost savings from these upgrades at about $12,500 per year,” he says.

The management system and pool upgrades will allow for better control over the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Facility operators will have the option of turning equipment off at night, while better insulation will prevent excess heat from exiting processing equipment. The project will be completed in a few months’ time and Desabrais has already secured orders with suppliers and contractors.

These upgrades will not be added to the arena.

“Energy savings are a benefit to everybody. It improves some of our processes, requiring less manpower and also a savings in energy,” says Laurie Wilgosh, chief administrative officer for the Town of Pincher Creek.

Town council agreed to fund the project in July upon request from the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, which pays for Desabrais’s position.

A council information package explained the cost breakdown: $18,782 allocated to pool technology, $37,756 to the management system and $6,805 to insulation, with a total cost of $63,343. A $46,781 rebate is factored into the final estimate.

The MCCAC was founded in 2009 to address climate-change-related issues in local communities. It is run by a variety of groups including the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Rural Municipalities Association of Alberta.

Renewable energy projects are booming, says Desabrais, particularly wind and solar, and he looks forward to a prosperous career in a burgeoning industry.

A mechanical engineer by trade, he originally planned on a lucrative career in the oil-and-gas industry, but an economic downturn caused him to have a change of heart. He switched to renewable energy shortly after graduating university and hasn’t looked back.

“I didn’t really plan it out,” he says. “It just developed over time. It seemed like the right path for me.”

Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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