Labs21 Develops Laboratory Environmental Performance Criteria

August 1, 2002

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Laboratory facilities present a unique challenge for energy efficient and sustainable design, with their inherent complexity of systems, health and safety requirements, long-term flexibility and adaptability needs, energy use intensity, and environmental impacts. The typical laboratory is about five times as energy intensive as a typical office building and costs about three times as much per unit area. In recognition of the importance of laboratory energy and environmental impacts, EPA and DOE sponsor the Laboratories for the 21st Century (Labs21) program, which is dedicated to the pursuit of sustainable, high performance, and low-energy laboratories.

In order to help laboratory stakeholders assess the environmental performance of their laboratories, Labs21 is developing the Environmental Performance Criteria (EPC), a point-based rating system specifically designed for laboratories. Currently, the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) rating system is the primary tool used to rate the sustainability of commercial buildings. However, LEED™ was not designed for laboratories and lacks attributes essential to the sustainable design of this unique building type.

The Labs21 EPC effort builds upon the successful LEED™ rating system. In addition to the existing credits in LEED™ 2.0, the Labs21 EPC has prerequisites and credits for "green" laboratory features in the following areas:

  • Sustainable sites—reducing impact of air and water effluents;
  • Water efficiency—documenting and reducing process water use;
  • Energy and atmosphere—improving energy efficiency of laboratory systems and equipment;
  • Materials and resources—hazardous material handling and chemical resource management; and
  • Indoor environmental quality—laboratory ventilation, fumehood safety modeling, and commissioning.

Labs21 EPC Version 1.1 was released in December 2001. Version 1.1 was a draft proposal intended to be used for broader discussion with industry. The draft guidelines served as a starting point for the development of Version 2.0. Eight working groups have been established to develop Version 2.0, primarily through a series of conference calls, using Version 1.1 as a starting point. Participation is open to all interested stakeholders. About 40 participants (architects, engineers, consulting experts, health and safety personnel, and facilities personnel) have come together thus far in working group conference calls, contributing more than 150 hours to the effort. Many of the participants have also developed draft revisions for the credits in each working group.

A draft proposal been completed and is available for comment. Based on the feedback received, a second series of conference calls will be held, if needed, for each working group. Version 2.0 is expected to be released in October 2002.

Visit the web site for a copy of the draft EPC Version 2.0 and the response form to participate in the evaluation of the EPC rating system. For more information on the Labs21 program, please see If you are interested in participating in the development of the EPC or in pilot testing it in your laboratory facility, please contact Paul Mathew of LBNL at 202-646-7952 or