Atlantica recently interviewed Gord Mouland, Chair, and Darryl Ford, President and CEO of Fundy Engineering & Consulting, to learn more about the business’ operations and the firm’s in Atlantic Canada.

Q: Please tell us about Fundy Engineering & Consulting. What work do you do to support the energy sector specifically?

Gord: Fundy Engineering & Consulting was founded in 1989 by myself (Gord Mouland), a geotechnical engineer, and Peter McKelvey, a bio-resources engineer, with head offices in Saint John, New Brunswick. We also have a satellite office in Clyde River, P.E.I and now have about 40 employees between both offices. When we started the firm, we had a vision of being a New Brunswick-based multidisciplinary engineering firm, with an expert focus on environmental, geotechnical/surveying, bio-resources, building systems, and project management.

We help clients globally with wind, hydro, and solar power through processes like Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), permitting, monitoring, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission assessments, and more.

Darryl: We assisted a start-up renewable energy company called C2 Solar through the Province’s EIA process for their Violet Utility-Scale Solar Farm project. The 10MW clean energy project’s goal was to supply enough energy for at least 2000 homes, and EIA approval was granted in 2020 for 50MW of power; the first approval of its kind anywhere in the region.

Gord Mouland (Left) and Darryl Ford (Right).

With regards to building systems, we have been assisting with several projects. There is an increasing number of homebuyers that want the quality, comfort, and energy savings of a passive house design, as well as the GHG emissions reductions of a net-zero house. We helped with the building design of an apartment building on Wellington Row in Saint John, New Brunswick, to successfully incorporate passive house design features, including energy efficient windows and solar panels on the roof to reduce electricity rates for residents.

Additionally, the Green Municipal Fund requires energy efficient buildings to be built and we are working with the Salisbury Fire and Rescue Station to help go net-zero in the future with solar panels, heating, and cooling being done through geothermal energy.

Q: What opportunities to do see for energy savings projects in the region? What can we do to help businesses, municipalities and other facilities reduce their energy consumption affordably?

Darryl: We always look at energy from an end-user point of view, meaning when it’s at the customers doorstep and how we can ensure affordability and reliability while also reducing GHG emissions. It’s common for developers to do the most affordable options while constructing buildings, but this isn’t always the most environmentally conscious option.

There are two programs that the Federal Government have put in place to incentivize developers to consider clean and energy-efficient property designs: the National Housing Co-Investment Fund (NHCF), recently renamed the Affordable Housing Fund, and the Multi-Loan Insurance (MLI) Select Program. Developers we work with may qualify for these Funds if they meet specific targets, such as achieving a 25% increase in energy efficiency, during building construction and energy system installations. This qualification allows them to receive subsidies, lower interest rates, and grants for their projects, making the adoption of clean and energy-efficient products and designs more affordable. Long-term savings can also be achieved by integrating geothermal, solar, and heat pumps into the energy systems of existing buildings.

Violet Utility-Scale Solar Farm, NB.

Q: How important is a reliable energy supply for your customers? How might the energy transition impact customer demands?

Gord: For customers, affordability and reliability are top priorities when it comes to energy, however, clean energy systems are going to become significantly more important over the next few decades.  As the Government of Canada makes 2035 and 2050 targets to transition away from fossil fuels for energy generation, there will be an increased demand for electricity. For example, a building that is currently heated with an oil-fired furnace has a limited capacity for electricity.

Atlantic Canada will need to develop more non-emitting energy sources. We know that solar and wind are not always reliable energy sources on their own, so we work with geothermal and nuclear energy sources often to avoid load-sharing and power outages, and to ensure that the capacity for electricity can increase in an environmentally conscious way.

Q: What are some of the big hurdles to addressing the support systems we need in place for the energy transition?

Gord: One of the biggest hurdles we experience are hiring more employees who have vast knowledge in system installations and performance. In 2013, unemployment rates were 9.2% and now the region sits at 5.3% unemployment rate. While this is economically good news, it also means that it’s difficult to find qualified professionals to help us expand our company by working on more projects.

Darryl: Another hurdle we experience is infrastructure renewal and costs associated with it. For example, to update infrastructure that can carry greater amounts of electricity to homes and businesses and support energy efficient systems.

Transitioning away from the status quo of how we have always engineered and constructed things in the energy sector will need to be recognized as we move forward with more renewable energy sources and electrification in building systems.

Summerside Wind Farm, P.E.I.

Q: What does the future look like for Fundy Engineering?

Darryl: Building systems that were designed 20+ years ago are going to need to be retrofitted. Retrofitting refers to adding components to an existing building system that will ensure cleaner energy sources are in place that are also cost-effective and reliable.

There are two pathways that a client can follow.  One path is the Commercial Building Retrofit Program through NB Power which requires an energy audit to identify how the building is consuming energy, and then use this information to provide recommendations on how the energy consumption can be reduced.  This is the path typically followed for retrofit projects. Improvements include upgrades to the building envelope, lighting retrofits, and more energy efficient heating and cooling systems.

The other path is to have a Certified Energy Manager do an energy model for the building through either the Affordable Housing Fund or the MLI Select Program.  This process involves looking at the building efficiency through the lens of a base building in the National Energy Code and then designing the building to make it more energy efficient. This path is typically followed for new constructions.

Gord: The future of Fundy Engineering will continue researching energy modelling for building systems. We are training two more energy certified managers to focus on the MLI Select Program and energy modelling, as well as two more engineers to focus on mechanical systems to ensure performance is sound. We will continue to drive developers toward making their buildings more energy efficient and to take advantage of the Affordable Housing Fund and MLI Select Program opportunities.

Overall, we’re going to continue to set ourselves up for success with new technologies and software, knowledge on how the energy sector is transitioning, and ensuring developers understand how they can shift away from the status quo and focus on clean energy moving forward.

To learn more about Fundy Engineering & Consulting, visit their website here.

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