Analyzing the Risk: Balancing Safety and Efficiency in Laboratory Ventilation

Laboratories are energy-intensive facilities, making them one of the best places for academic institutions and corporate organizations to target for carbon reduction initiatives and energy cost savings. Yet, the complex laboratory environment presents unique challenges. Any potential opportunity for carbon reduction in these environments must be carefully balanced with health and safety requirements. While the safety risks inherent to laboratory environments may make any adjustments to energy-intensive ventilation equipment seem imprudent, the control banding process provides significant value in characterizing the level of risk. Control banding reviews the chemicals, materials, equipment, and procedures used in a laboratory with the goal of aligning ventilation controls with laboratory hazards. Pairing control banding with an energy use intensity assessment prioritizes safety and delivers clear guidance on the carbon reduction value of ventilation adjustments for both old and new laboratories. An energy optimization program undertaken by a northeastern research university demonstrated the success and return on investment of the control banding process, by both the university’s standards and the regional utilities evaluation. An approximately $620 000 investment in implementing the optimization program yielded a 40% reduction of the building’s annual energy use intensity. Further, the optimization program resulted in a projected avoidance of emissions of 4, 972 ,102 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (kg CO2e/year) for the 5 year period of analysis to aid in the university’s decarbonization efforts. Laboratory energy optimization programs can help institutions make great inroads toward carbon reduction targets without compromising system performance or the health and safety of the building’s occupants.

Access the full article published in ACS Publications.

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