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Planning and Budget Committee proposes eco-friendly heating and cooling on portion of UTSG

Assessor reports on COVID-19 consequences also on agenda
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A carbon-friendly plan to expand U of T’s energy system at Devonshire Place and Bloor Street West aims to support future development.SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY
A carbon-friendly plan to expand U of T’s energy system at Devonshire Place and Bloor Street West aims to support future development.SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY

During its January 13 meeting, the university’s Planning and Budget Committee (PBC) evaluated a proposal to enhance utility services in the section of UTSG near the Devonshire Place and Bloor Street West intersection. The PBC is an organ of U of T’s Governing Council that reports to the Academic Board with recommendations on usage of university resources.

The meeting was the PBC’s third this academic year, and it also featured reports on the effects of the current lockdown on U of T, as well as an overview of faculty endowments awarded during the 2019–2020 academic year.

Carbon-friendly heating and cooling

Professor Scott Mabury, U of T Vice-President Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, and Ron Saporta, U of T Chief Operations Officer, gave a presentation during the meeting, proposing an extension of the university energy system in the Devonshire-Bloor area. Adopting the proposal would complement existing plans for new buildings in the area and would support any future growth that section of the campus might see.

As it exists now, the utilities service in U of T’s portion of the Devonshire-Bloor area is insufficient to properly heat and cool the existing buildings, let alone any planned expansion. This is problematic, given that an academic wood tower, a new Rotman Commerce academic building, and a new Woodsworth academic building to replace Kruger Hall are slated for construction in the location.

To properly modulate temperature in the planned buildings, Mabury and Saporta’s proposal would see each structure connected to U of T’s existing central utility plant and have steam and cold water piped to them. This centralized system was selected over a decentralized system, which involved the allocation of large mechanical spaces in each building to accommodate individual boiler plants.

The proposed expansion was designed to adhere to U of T’s Low-Carbon Action Plan, which aims to reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions by 37 per cent before 2030. UTSG currently contributes 80 per cent of U of T’s carbon emissions, and the administration plans for the campus to become carbon neutral by 2050 through infrastructure refurbishments.

While the proposal itself was discussed on an open livestream, cost and funding discussions were held by the PBC in camera. The proposal was presented to the PBC purely for informative reasons, with the responsibility of ultimate approval for the project lying with other bodies.

Having passed through the PBC for recommendation, the proposal was also approved by the Academic Board on January 28. Execution of the project will now be tabled for approval by the Business Board on February 3, before final confirmation is considered by the Executive Committee on February 9. If no objections are made, construction will then begin in March.

Vice-president and provost’s report

Professor Cheryl Regehr, U of T Vice-President & Provost, delivered the report from the PBC’s assessors, which evaluated the ways in which COVID-19 has affected the committee’s mandate.

Against expectations, undergraduate enrolment increased 3.4 per cent in the fall semester compared to previous years, and enrolment in doctoral programs increased 6.7 per cent year-over-year. However, enrolment in master’s programs declined by 0.7 per cent.

U of T-funded quarantines accommodated more than 1,300 students returning to Toronto, and more than $7.4 million in emergency bursaries were dispersed over 2020. The university focused on direct support to U of T students, with an emphasis on supporting education in the health care sector and other areas critical to Ontario’s post-pandemic recovery.

Regehr also noted that U of T had been evaluated by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities and was found to have met all of the 2020–2021 targets set by the provincial Strategic Mandate Agreement.

The next meeting of the PBC will be held on February 22.