Laboratories for the 21st Century: Program Highlights

November 11, 2003

From Taiwan to Tewksbury, Massachusetts, a growing network of laboratory designers, engineers, and facility managers is defining the next generation of laboratories. While each may be designing, building, or managing a different type of laboratory, they share a common goal–to create a high-performance, low-energy built environment.

To support this encouraging trend, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) joined forces to launch the Laboratories for the 21st Century (Labs21) program. The goal of Labs21 is to improve the energy and environmental performance of our nation's laboratories. Now reaching more than 1,500 practitioners around the globe, Labs21 continues to expand its tools and services, as well as the opportunities for involvement by the laboratory community.

Some of the latest developments of the program are highlighted below. We encourage you to learn more about Labs21 and share your expertise by getting involved with one of the numerous partnership opportunities.

Pilot Partner Profiles

Labs21 is actively working with more than a dozen public and private sector Pilot Partners to create high performance, showcase laboratories. From university laboratories to sophisticated microelectronics testing facilities, each project demonstrates "new thinking" in terms of laboratory design, operation, and maintenance. In October, Labs21 will invite all of the nation's laboratories to join the program as Partners.

New Tools and Resources

Labs21 is working to equip laboratory designers and engineers with the tools they need to achieve aggressive energy and environmental performance goals. The program's long-term goal is to offer a suite of tools to assist laboratory designers at each stage of the design process–from the earliest conceptual stages through benchmarking environmental performance.

The Design Intent Tool provides a framework for tracking design decisions throughout the course of a project. The Labs21 Benchmarking Tool is part of a broad-based initiative to enable laboratory owners to benchmark their energy performance against similar laboratories.

Labs21 has also published a series of case studies, exploring the unique characteristics of some of the country's "greenest" laboratories. To learn more, see the article summarizing the lessons learned from these top performers.

Education and Training

Each year, Labs21 sponsors an international conference, which has grown from a small working group to a gathering of more than 600 professionals interested in sustainable laboratory design. This year's conference, to be held in Denver, Colorado, on October 21-23, will feature more than 60 presentations on a variety of topics, from state-of-the-art design and management strategies to case studies of industry-leading projects.

Labs21 also offers a series of one-day courses across the country on high-performance, low-energy laboratory design. To date, the course has trained more than 1,000 laboratory designers, energy managers, and facilities professionals.

Other Initiatives

In addition to these efforts, Labs21 continues to support a number of other new initiatives. As one example, the Labs21 Student Design Competition challenges architecture students and faculty to design a "green" laboratory. Working with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Labs21 has invited more than 200 schools in the United States and Canada to participate and will provide national recognition to the winners.

Working in partnership with a number of prominent universities, another goal of Labs21 is to create a network of regional centers of excellence across the country. As currently envisioned, each of these centers–under development at Harvard University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Hawaii–would offer technical support and information to the increasingly diverse and complex network of laboratories nationwide.

To learn more about these and other exciting developments, visit the Labs21 web site at

For more information, please contact Will Lintner, FEMP Labs21 Program Manager, at 202-586-3120 or