Partners in Sustainable Design

November 11, 2003

Photo of Levine Science Research Center

Duke University's Levine Science Research Center in Durham, NC.

From retrofitting 1950s-era under-graduate laboratories into state-of-the-art energy-efficient chemical engineering facilities, to designing a new science and technology research facility using a "whole building" approach, Labs21 Partners are at the forefront of sustainable laboratory design.

Through the Labs21 Partnership Program, EPA and DOE are working with more than a dozen private and public sector organizations to develop sustainable, high-performance, and low-energy laboratories. By setting goals to reduce energy and water use in defined projects, each Partner is demonstrating the potential for improved laboratory design, construction, and management worldwide.

In joining the program, Partners voluntarily agree to apply sustainable design and management practices to a specific laboratory project. In exchange for this commitment, they enjoy a long list of benefits, from national recognition, to the opportunity for technical assistance. Below are a just a few examples of how Labs21 Partners, from microelectronic and pharmaceutical companies to universities and federal agencies, are setting the standard for laboratories in the 21st century.

  • Currently under construction, DOE's Sandia National Laboratories' 377,000 square-foot Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications Complex in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is expected to be 30 percent less energy-intensive than similar buildings at Sandia. In addition, this state-of-the-art complex will reclaim and recycle its process water.

  • The University of California-Merced has set a number of challenging energy efficiency goals for its new Science and Engineering Building. To achieve these goals, the university is employing efficient lighting, low pressure-drop air systems, variable air volume fume hood systems, solar controls through shading and high-performance glazing, and other measures.

  • By incorporating numerous energy saving features into its new Science and Technology Facility, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory expects to achieve a 41 percent energy cost savings over similar conventional buildings. The Golden, CO, facility will include 100 percent ambient daylighting in offices (50 percent in labs), use waterless urinals and high efficiency chillers, recapture stormwater runoff for use in irrigation, and allow for easy future additions of building-integrated photovoltaics as an electricity source. Through these efforts, they hope to achieve a U.S. Green Building Council LEED™ Gold rating for this facility.

  • To improve energy efficiency at its 300,000 square-foot Levine Science Research Center, Duke University is measuring the impact of various exhaust hood management practices and strategies on energy utilization. The university is also applying "whole building" design to a number of laboratories on campus.

This fall, Labs21 will transition beyond the "pilot" phase of its Partnership Program. At that time, all public and private sector organizations in the United States interested in improving their laboratories' energy- and water-efficiency, encouraging the use of renewable energy sources, and promoting environmental stewardship will be invited to join the program. New Partners can take advantage of the many valuable lessons learned during the pilot phase, including

  • Setting energy and environmental performance goals at the outset of a project and reinforcing these goals throughout the course of the project.

  • Using Labs21 tools, such as the Environmental Performance Criteria, to help establish and evaluate design alternatives.

  • Securing a project champion, as well as buy-in from both upper-level management and laboratory users.

  • Allowing for flexible design strategies, since all laboratories (and laboratory projects) are unique.

With the expansion of the Partnership Program, Labs21 hopes to achieve market transformation by offering assistance to a wider variety of public and private labs as they create sustainable laboratories of the future. To learn more about the Labs21 Partnership Program, visit

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