LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. It provides a framework that project teams can apply to create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement. You may be asking, what does it mean to be a LEED certified facility? How can my laboratory be more energy efficient?
There are different levels of LEED Certification; you can be certified, gold, silver, or the top tier platinum. The United States Green Building Council says more than 2.2 million square feet is LEED certified every day in more than 165 countries and almost all building types, from homes to community buildings, and factories to offices. Our focus is on laboratories and how certification can save energy, water resources, generate less waste, and support indoor air quality and health.
Fume hoods are a huge user of energy in a laboratory. Stanford University estimates that a single fume hood can consume as much energy as 3.5 homes. New designs in fume hoods have resulted in models that reduce energy use while still maintaining, or even enhancing, safety. Fume hoods in newer or recently renovated labs generally have variable air volume (VAV) fume hoods. For these hoods, vented air volume is controlled by the sash height. This means the lower the sash, the lower the amount of conditioned air exhausted. Keeping the sash shut when not in use means the fans don’t have to work as hard to move that air, which results in big energy savings. Many new hoods, as mentioned before, feature an automatic sash which automatically shuts the barrier when not in use. Keeping the sash shut not only adds to energy saving costs, but also increases lab safety.
According to Harvard University, “a typical life science laboratory uses more than three times as much electricity per square foot as an office building.” Most of the energy use comes from plug-loaded equipment such as freezers, incubators, computers, and other technologies. These technologies are the biggest source of the lab’s environmental footprint, but are a necessity when conducting research. We can greatly reduce the energy usage with intervention strategies, such as “power saving mode” and Fume hoods with automatic sash features.
Most college campuses have a laboratory facility or building. The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) estimates that research lab buildings can account for 40 to 60 percent of energy use on a campus. Ultra-low temperature laboratory freezers are the most energy-intensive pieces of equipment in a scientific research lab. Newer models often utilize far less energy. For example, a new ThermoFisher scientific laboratory freezer consumes roughly 45% less energy than a 20-year-old model. If you have an older model some ways you can help reduce its energy use is to check door seals, move freezers to cooler locations so they don’t have to work as hard, defrost regularly, and share freezer space with neighboring labs if possible.
Another factor in green laboratories is water saving. Thanks to today’s technologies water usage isn’t as much of a threat as it used to be. According to I2SL the biggest threat with water is in the extraction, treatment, and delivery, which can account for up to 15% of the laboratory’s energy consumption. Part of being a LEED Certified building when it comes to water reduction is in the overall design, a storm water management plan, water efficient landscaping, and using innovative wastewater technologies such as treating wastewater on-site and reusing it.
Even if your building isn’t considered LEED Certified, applying these practices can save you large amounts per year in energy costs, lead to a greener laboratory environment, and lessen your facility’s carbon footprint. Upgrading your equipment can have one of the biggest impacts on your energy consumption. Contact one of our experts to assess your space and see how we can help you create a safer, greener, state-of-the-art laboratory at your facility.