Les Quinton

In conversations I have with many arena and energy managers, I often find myself talking about Les Quinton (see “Two Decades of Energy Efficiencies“). That’s because I’m so impressed with what he and his team at the Town of Black Diamond, Alberta, has done to make their facilities as energy-efficient as possible, I want to tell everyone about it.

I mean, seriously, Les has so many golden nugget stories that implementing just one of them could make a tremendous difference to so many arenas.

And none of it is rocket science.

Les’s approach is straightforward — and relentless. He finds ways to go the extra mile, lowering the facilities’ consumption, costs and greenhouse gas emissions, as he does.

Which is really saying something because the Oilfields Regional Arena is a barn. It was built in the 1970s, back when no one cared about the cost of power or water (or could imagine a future where hockey would be played in the summer). It was constructed with corrugated galvanized steel for the arena’s exterior walls (read ‘quonset’), void of any insulation. And the ice plant has always been light on refrigeration power (read ‘undersized’) with just one 75 hp compressor.

And although it’s still a barn, it’s now a barn with a difference.

That’s thanks to Les. The small town’s (pop. 4,500) Parks & Recreation Manager wanted to take what he’d been given and make it better. He’s recently shared with me a 64-page powerpoint presentation that outlines much of what they’ve done, and how — and I’ve condensed it into five easy concepts you need to follow to get your facility on the way to being more energy efficient. I call them The Five Les Quinton-isms — and you might read them and think they’re so obvious that they’re not even worth writing down. But I know they are not just worth writing down, they’re worth it to you to follow.

But beware. If you’re not interested in doing things the right way, don’t read this. If you don’t like to make an effort, then go back to playing Solitaire on your computer. But if you want the best facility you can have, this is what you need to do.

Take a look at your facility and ask yourself if anyone is using it. If it's not being used, turn it off.

“When I first toured the arena, it was summertime and the ice was out. But there was a furnace running and lights were on! Our first rule became, ‘If the facility is not in use, do NOT turn it on.’ That’s a very simple idea, but it goes a long way to saving money.”

Do a Life Cycle Analysis on all your equipment and buildings

That’s so you know
a) what you have
b) what your maintenance schedules are
c) what its life cycle is
Once you’ve done that, you can make the items that need replacing a priority.

“How old is your equipment now, how long is your equipment expected to last and when should it be replaced. Don’t limit those questions to your equipment: they’re questions you should ask about your building, too.”

Continually track and compare your consumption data.

Electricity, natural gas, water, run time hours.

“If you don’t know what you’re using, how will you know if the changes you’re making are having an effect?”

Develop a long-term plan

Quinton recommends that for everything that eventually will need to be replaced, you should research what it will cost to replace them with high efficiency units — and add 15% to the price. Then, divide that cost by the number of years remaining until that particular unit needs to be replaced and put that cost into your annual reserves. Don’t start all the reserves at once: add projects each year, explain what they are and when they will need to be replaced.

“It’s easier to convince your Town Council to put a smaller amount in reserves annually if they know what it’s for. Same if you break up a project into parts.”

Remove "That’s the way we’ve always done it” from your vocabulary and embrace the challenge of making a difference to your arena's costs, consumption, run time, etc.

Ask questions about everything and discover what can be modified or changed to reduce power, gas and water consumption.

“Automate as much as possible, so it’s only used when required.”

Les says you shouldn’t just look at the quick payback items but you need to look at longer payback items too. And once you have made an impact on your utility consumption, then start looking at alternative energy. You can start small, and build on what you’ve got — if expandability has been thought about beforehand.

Les also says you should look for opportunities where ever you can find them, which includes grants, partnerships and demonstration projects.