At Civic Hotel, we like to think we’re pretty smart in the ways we’ve gone about constructing a hotel that helps visitors reduce their carbon footprint. But being smart is actually kind of de rigueur in this neighbourhood. It’s not just the students and renowned academics in our local university district. Or the brilliant researchers and entrepreneurs involved in local partnerships like Innovation Boulevard. No. Here in Surrey’s City Centre, the municipal government stands as one of the smartest players on the block.
It began in 2014, with the launch of their Smart Surrey Strategy. This Strategy defined how the City would leverage all the new technologies and innovations to help facilitate sustainable, resource-efficient growth in Surrey. It also provided for the development of the best, most creative digital tools to encourage and streamline their engagement with residents.
The response to the Strategy’s initiatives has been pretty fierce. In 2015, they were ranked as one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities of 2015 by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), a think tank that looks at how different cities are showing leadership in the innovative ways they use and devise technologies to enhance quality of life.
What did the ICF see to celebrate? It remarked upon the City’s strategic use of digital tools, including the MySurrey app that enables easy access to City resources and information, and Surrey Request, an app providing a direct, interactive digital connection between city services and residents. It also pointed to a range of infrastructure projects that are putting the smart into Surrey and complement our own efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
District Energy System
The City has engineered an award-winning local energy utility designed to use renewable fuels to help lower greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize its energy costs. This closed-loop system distributes heat and hot water generated from a centrally located node through a series of pipes to civic and other buildings within a defined district.
During its start-up phase, the utility will be fuelled by natural gas. Once fully operational, however, it will access other energy sources, such as the energy produced in the geothermal field beneath the municipal hall and the Civic Plaza. This utility will soon provide power to City Hall, the library and other buildings on or near Civic Plaza.
While Civic Hotel has its own in-slab utility providing energy efficient heating and cooling to the building, it too is connected to the geothermal field below the Plaza. And in times of extreme temperatures, it can pick up supplementary supplies of energy or offload excess energy into the field. It’s a backup system that not only reflects Civic Hotel’s core values but helps us avoid having to resort to high-emission sources when the weather gets rough.
Traffic Management Centre
In 2016, the City of Surrey created a centrally located Traffic Management Centre, which operates one of the most cutting-edge municipal traffic management systems worldwide. The system draws on real-time data collected from over 400 cameras located at key intersections. The data is fed through live video feeds to the Centre, where traffic controllers can observe them. Radio controls allow controllers to manipulate the smart signals in response to congestion. And the data from 120 intersections is streamed live, for drivers to use in planning their routes.
Through its operations, the Centre is effectively maximizing the capacity of Surrey’s road network. Over the longer term, the data it collects will help planners improve their understanding of traffic flows and reconfigure intersections to improve fluidity. And by optimizing the use of the existing infrastructure, it helps drivers avoid frustrating delays and detours owing to the construction of new roads. It’s an obvious way to reduce unnecessary emissions, not to mention help you make that 8 am meeting on time.
Organic Biofuel Facility
The City of Surrey is in the process of building an organic waste processing facility, reportedly the first completely closed-loop municipal system in North America. The facility will process residential organic waste, diverting it from the municipal landfill. The waste will be processed to create compost as well as a 100% renewable natural gas.
Once the facility is up and running, the gas will be used to fuel the municipality’s own natural-gas vehicles, including its fleet of waste collection trucks. Some of the natural gas will be used to fuel the District Energy System (see above). It will also make an appearance at Civic Hotel, where it will be used as part of our renewable gas platform, supplying some of the equipment in our natural gas-fuelled in-house catering kitchen.