Laboratories Project Team

Laboratory facilities are very energy intensive—ranging from 250 kBtu/sf to 800 kBtu/sf—about 3–8 times as much as an average office building. On a university campus, labs can constitute 40–50% of total energy use, even though they may constitute less than 20% of the total floor space. A single laboratory fume hood can consume as much energy as three average homes—so a laboratory with dozens of fume hoods consumes as much energy as a small neighborhood!

Laboratories have many unique efficiency opportunities that need specialized expertise. Better Buildings Alliance (BBA) Laboratories Project Team members reduce laboratory energy use by implementing low-cost operational best practices, developing specifications to build demand for more efficient laboratory equipment, and sharing information on cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.

For a list of BBA member companies and institutions currently participating on the Laboratories Project Team, please see below. If you would like to work on the Laboratories Project Team and are a BBA member, email the BBA coordinator. If you are not a member, learn more about joining BBA.

Current Project Team Initiatives

  • Deploying, documenting, and disseminating four high-impact strategies:
    • Fume-hood sash management. A single fume hood in a typical lab can use more than 10,000 kWh per year. Reducing fume hood energy use can be as simple as training laboratory users to shut the sash when not using it. A case study published by the Federal Energy Management Program showed that fume hood sash management in a laboratory building at the University of California, Santa Barbara, resulted in savings of $1,300 per hood. The same study estimated that sash management in a laboratory building at U.C. Davis had a simple payback of 15 minutes. In support of a fume hood sash management campaign, the Labs team has developed the Fume Hood Sash Management Campaign Implementation Guide and Fume Hood Sash Management Campaign Resource Kit.
    • Optimizing minimum air-change rates. Fresh air exchanges in labs are important for safety, but too many air exchanges per hour can negatively impact both safety and efficiency. Optimizing air exchange rates can save a significant amount of money and energy. For example, by optimizing air change rates in laboratory buildings, the University of Colorado, Boulder, estimates that they will reduce their campus energy use by about 15%. Read our report Getting Below Six Air Changes that highlights BBA members who have successfully optimized air change rates in their laboratories, or read about the University of Colorado, Boulder, Cornell University, and the University of California, Irvine, in more detail.
    • Reducing simultaneous heating and cooling. Simultaneous heating and cooling is as inefficient as it sounds, yet it is a very common practice in today's commercial buildings. Project Team members work to track and reduce simultaneous heating and cooling. A Labs21 study showed that strategies to reduce reheat energy use can result in 11% to 14% total source energy savings. See the Labs Team webinar presentation on Reheat in Existing Lab Buildings. The labs team has developed this "getting started" guide on how to identify, quantify and minimize reheat in existing labs.
    • Laboratory freezer energy management. A typical ultra-low temperature freezer can use as much electricity as a small house! Managing temperature settings and replacing or eliminating older freezers can save thousands of dollars each year. For example, a recent technical bulletin published by the Labs21 program showed that the use of room temperature sample storage can save $1,320–$3,250 annually for each ultra-low freezer that is replaced. See the Labs Team webinar presentation on the StoreSmart Freezer Challenge. The Store Smart team worked with the labs team to develop this user guide on freezer management.
  • Developing freezer and fume-hood specifications (cross-cutting activity with the Refrigeration and Food Service Project Team).
    • Fume hood specification. Replacing a conventional fume hood with one that meets the specification could save up to 50,000 kWh of energy and $5,000 over 5 years, while also reducing the space conditioning energy loads. If all fume hoods in the U.S. were replaced today with fume hoods that met the energy requirements in this specification, laboratories could save 7.5 TWh of energy, or about $760 million in energy costs per year.
    • Ultra-low temperature freezer (ULF) specification. A typical ULF can use up to 20 kWh of electricity per day—as much as a small house! Replacing it with a unit that meets the specification could save up to 3,000 kWh per year, saving as much as $1,500 over 5 years.

Resources and Past Initiatives

  • Laboratories for the 21st Century (Labs21) is a voluntary partnership program dedicated to improving the environmental performance of U.S. laboratories. The program is a joint initiative between DOE and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • The Labs21 Toolkit has dozens of resources to support the design, construction, and operation of high-performance laboratories. The tools include design guides, case studies, a performance rating system, and a benchmarking tool.
  • The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) offers a variety of training opportunities through in-person workshops and online webinars.

Additional Information

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Laboratories Project Team Members

  • Arizona State University
  • Clark Atlanta University
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Stanford University
  • Tulane University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center