Sladjana Borovcanin – Vancouver Community College
When the new Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation, or CCEAI, is built on the Broadway campus of Vancouver Community College, it will provide students with training programs such as automotive innovation, clean energy and creative learning as well as spaces for student services and a gathering place for Indigenous students.
As Sladjana Borovcanin, VCC’s director of facilities management, adds, the CCEAI building demonstrates the college’s commitment to meeting environmental sustainability goals set by the school, city and British Columbia government.
CCEAI is one of the leading elements of the college’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions, but Borovcanin’s team has already spent more than a decade improving energy efficiency. According to the most recent VCC climate change accountability report, those efforts have resulted in $4.9 million in cost avoidance savings for energy use since 2010. Conservation efforts have reduced electricity use by 2 million kilowatts per year—enough to power about 200 homes in British Columbia annually, she says.
“The college is looking to really be a leader,” Borovcanin says. “Not just in how we support students but to build a sustainable future for the next generation, so they can have successful jobs and careers.”
Vancouver Community College was established as Vancouver City College in 1965 by combining the Vancouver Vocational Institute, the Vancouver School of Art, the Vancouver School Board’s night school program and the King Edward Senior Matriculation and Continuing Education Centre. By 1970, VCC had expanded to a second campus to accommodate its programs.
It became Vancouver Community College in 1978 and currently has two campuses, Broadway and Downtown, that serve more than 15,000 students combined.
Borovcanin leads a team of 17 people, including an associate director, two managers and 14 unionized employees in managing facilities on VCC’s campuses. It’s a well-tenured staff, her associate director has been with VCC for 40 years and others have been there for several decades, too.
“Our environment brings about different perspectives and priorities,” Borovcanin says. “Being able to listen and provide solutions is one of the most favorite and honorable parts of my role.”
Borovcanin is part of the planning to make CCEAI net-zero for carbon emissions while achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Gold standard for sustainability and energy use.
CCEAI will achieve the standard with features including a green roof with vegetation to help handle stormwater flow, a building envelope designed to reduce cooling and heating demands, triple-glazed windows and a comprehensive water retention system, she says.
Borovcanin says the college has been working with BC Hydro’s Energy Management Program on reducing energy use since 2010. The current goal is a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2010-11 levels by March 2025.
The climate change accountability report notes that by December 2022, VCC had achieved a 44 percent reduction in energy use and a 55 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Since joining VCC in March 2020, Borovcanin has led efforts including LED lighting upgrades and adding heat pumps and occupancy sensors. She and her team have installed efficient motors for fluid coolers and are making full use of a direct digital control system to automate heating and cooling at facilities. She and her team are also working with VCC’s hospitality program on how they might replace gas stoves with electric ones used in culinary classes and develop new, fully electrified demonstration kitchens.
Borovcanin has also guided adding charging stations for electric vehicles, including bicycles. To encourage students and staff to bike to campuses, VCC has expanded storage, added a commercial-sized air pump to inflate tires and a bike station equipped with tools for on-campus repairs and tune-ups.
Those efforts and others are part of VCC’s continued push to decarbonize its buildings and operations, Borovcanin says, and align itself with policies in the city of Vancouver and province of British Columbia (which has mandated that public buildings be carbon neutral by 2030).
Accessibility and collaboration
Borovcanin says ensuring the campus is accessible is as crucial as sustainable operations. The campus is certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation, a Canadian nonprofit that works to improve accessibility in buildings. She and her team have designed classrooms with accessible layouts and flexible and adjustable furniture options. They’ve also enhanced campus navigation with signs in Braille and have added visual and audible alarm systems.
Borovcanin attributes her collaborative nature to her life experience, which includes emigrating with her family from Bosnia to Canada as refugees in the mid-1990s after the Bosnian War.
“Seeing how much my parents sacrificed also helped me become more resilient,” she says.
Borovcanin earned her bachelor’s degree in interior design from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia, in 2002. She also has a master’s degree in design and environment from the University of London, which she earned in 2011.
She also served as a facilities planner at KPU from 2006 to 2014. From 2014 to 2015, she taught at the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design on the university’s Richmond campus.
Borovcanin was senior planning manager for infrastructure and capital projects at BC Pavilion Corp., or PavCo, which owns and operates BC Place Stadium and the Vancouver Convention Centre as a Crown corporation of British Columbia before becoming director of facilities management at VCC in March 2020.
“We’re a community college and compete with the bigger colleges and universities in British Columbia and Vancouver with similar programs,” she says. “I have a great team and exceptional support. We face daily challenges—there’s always something new. They’re great people and this is a great place to work.
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VII 2023 Edition here.”
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