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Greening the Laboratory

By David Driscoll, Director, Parkin Architects Limited

Laboratory buildings have traditionally used an egregious amount of energy and have rarely been thought of as “green.” But this has changed in recent years. We have applied our knowledge and experience with energy efficient approaches used in other institutional buildings to reduce the energy used in laboratories.

In an effort to ensure laboratories are safe for their occupants, we maintain a large number of air exchanges within the design. This requires a great deal of energy to heat, cool and humidify the incoming air – only to have it all evacuated in short order! To address this, we found that a well-thought-out approach to the mechanical and controls systems could greatly reduce the amount of energy used. Automatic sash closers on fumehoods and a VAV (variable air volume) lab ventilation system ensure that labs stay safe while using minimal air change rates. The selection of a 4-foot fumehood rather than a 6-foot hood results in a saving of 50% of the required energy.

Appropriate material selection improves the indoor environment, and flexible lab casework systems in adaptable layouts reduce future renovation waste. Efficiently designed labs can be constructed on a smaller foot print, and a smaller built footprint can be achieved by encouraging the sharing of resources, resulting in increased program efficiency and greater interaction among different groups.

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