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Labs Reduce Energy Consumption with Labs21 Through the EPA

On a square-foot basis, laboratories can consume 10 times the energy of a typical office building. Labs increase energy efficiency through energy and water efficient equipment, cogeneration and geothermal sources

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May 10 2007 - Washington DC -- Energy-swollen science laboratories in the United States are slimming down with a program known as Laboratories for the 21st Century, or Labs21, a growing number of such facilities are exposing their energy hogs to the environmental equivalent of low-fat diets to cut down their energy consumption.

A joint venture of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, Labs21 has enlisted some of the biggest laboratory operators in the land in an effort to corral energy consumption and cut attendant costs. Many factors, large and small, have contributed to the saving of 533 trillion BTUs , or enough energy to power about 14,500 homes annually. On a square-foot basis, laboratories can consume 10 times the energy of a typical office building.

Some of the steps labs are taking to increase energy efficiency include:

  • installing energy- and water-efficient equipment
  • incorporating sustainable design elements into new construction projects
  • improving operation and maintenance techniques
  • recovering exhaust heat energy and processing cooling water energy recovery
  • cogeneration
  • using geothermal ground source heat pump systems for space heating, air conditioning and water heating

One culprit, the traditional fume hood, which maintains safe air quality in a laboratory, can gulp as much energy in a year as three American households — and many U.S. laboratories have more than 50 fume hoods in a single building. The Labs21 solution is straightforward: install fume hoods that provide air flow only when the device is in use.

Labs21 program has expanded since its inception in 1999 to include 79 chemical and biological laboratories that occupy 13.7 million square feet. Participating labs are saving up to 30-50 percent on their energy bills compared with those not taking the cure, and the savings go straight to the bottom line: a potential $390-$650 million a year.

As the “green labs” concept broadens, new laboratory construction is achieving significant reductions in energy use when compared with older facilities. Under the program, Labs21 partners and two EPA labs have been certified gold in the Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. The Labs21 high-performance, low-energy design methods can help laboratory owners meet and exceed their energy and sustainability goals.

There are currently seven Labs21 Supporters from Canada, one from Australia, and another from Hong Kong. International attendance at the Labs21 Conference is increasing each year as well. The Labs21 2006 Annual Conference was host to attendees from the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, China Japan, Canada, and Taiwan. In addition Australia, the United Kingdom and the European Union are making plans to launch their own versions of Labs21 patterned after the EPA/DOE model. The Labs21 2007 Annual Conference will convene October 2-4 in Charleston, South Carolina.

The conference, which has drawn more than 3,000 attendees since 1999, is one of the techniques Labs21 uses to reach professionals and owners in the laboratory and high- technology building industry. Team members also teach lab-design courses, present at laboratory-related events and generate materials for use within the scientific community. Additionally, 158 architecture, engineering, design, construction, and other related organizations (supporters) have agreed to promote Labs21 and sustainable design principles to their clients, colleagues, and the public.

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Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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