LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. It provides a framework for project teams to create healthy, high efficiency, and cost-saving green laboratories and buildings. LEED certification is known globally as a symbol of sustainability achievement. You may be asking, what does it mean to be a LEED certified facility? How can I create a more green laboratory environment?
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 in more than 165 countries every day. Anything from homes to community buildings, and factories to offices, can all be LEED certified. However, our focus is green 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 a single fume hood can consume as much energy as 3.5 homes. Fume hoods are going through new designs and engineering, which results in models that reduce energy. These new devices also maintain, or even enhancing, safety. Fume hoods in newer laboratories generally have variable air volume (VAV) fume hoods. For these hoods, the sash height controls the vented air volume. 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 aren’t working as hard, which results in big energy savings. Many new hoods 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. These strategies include “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 research lab buildings account for 40-60% of energy use on 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 create a greener lab: check door seals, move freezers to cooler locations, 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. These factors 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, can lead to a greener laboratory.
Even if your building isn’t considered LEED, applying these practices can save you large amounts per year in energy costs. They will also help create a greener laboratory environment overall, 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.