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Facilities Services staffers, l to r: Wendy Lee, Candace Le Roy, Ron Sue, Sam Dahabieh, Ron Mastromonaco (BC Hydro) and Wanda Tai

Energy Conservation Leader Celebrates 30 years at SFU

September 23, 2010

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SFU’s sustainability efforts have a formidable champion in Facilities Services operations director Sam Dahabieh, who joined the university in 1970 and has led its energy conservation agenda since the 1980s.

He’s an active member of the Sustainability Advisory Committee and the Energy Committee and a key driver of the energy conservation initiatives on all three campuses.

"I made energy conservation my focus, goal and objective long before it became fashionable to be energy efficient and power smart," says Dahabieh.

"For me it was the natural thing to do in response to a dramatic budget reduction experienced by the university in the early `80s. Very early on I concentrated on improving the electrical performance of the university."

Dahabieh’s proudest projects include the Gold achievement award from Natural Resource Canada for campus energy initiatives and the campus lighting retrofit that generated $300,000 in annual electricity savings.

Other accomplishments: a BOMA BEST Level 1 Green Campus Certificate (a North American first); and the Continuous Optimization Projects (building retrofits for energy conservation), for which BC Hydro’s Power Smart program recognized SFU as a leader, and which won the Canadian Association of University Business Officers’ Quality and Productivity Award for 2010.

Future projects include a proposed biomass heating plant that would reduce SFU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent, a solar water-heating system for the gym complex, and energy-smart renovations to all campus buildings. Also planned are an expansion of the recycling program, a new composting program and the installation of dimmable LED lights in all lecture theatres.

To support these projects, the university will develop programs to change habitual behaviors, such as turning off lights, to help reduce energy use.

"Funding is always a barrier," says Dahabieh. "The other barrier is human behaviour. Both are challenges that should be easy to overcome with the dedication, enthusiasm and passion of all involved."

But short-term payback initiatives are no longer available, he says. "Now we’re looking at energy initiatives that have eight- to 15-year payback periods, since we have eliminated almost all of the low-hanging fruit related to energy conservation."

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