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Labratory Labratory

Energy and Resource Efficiency in Life Sciences Design

Jason D'Orlando • 9/20/2023

Energy- and resource-efficient design can help transform corporate goals for existing life sciences buildings or planned construction into successful, energy-efficient spaces. As more companies commit to net-zero standards over the next several decades, the following design approaches should be considered for any facility.

Energy Efficiency 

  1. Replace gas systems with electric  
    More states are pushing for all-electric buildings, and as project managers replace gas systems, they should consider systems such as solar panels to offset increased electrical use. Using sustainable energy sources is also a chance to score carbon and renewable energy credits.  

  2. Add occupancy sensors to compound energy savings 
    Adding room occupancy sensors is a simple and effective way to save energy usage across buildings.   

  3. Reduce celling height to enhance conditioned air recirculation 
    Lowering lab ceilings—which are often 10 feet or higher—will decrease one cubic foot of air per square foot of lab space, making air recirculation more efficient and reducing capital costs by decreasing the size of HVAC equipment.  

  4. Reduce number of fume hoods to lower air changes per hour (ACH) 
    In labs and fume hood-intensive spaces, exhaust can drive high ACH—usually an average of 10 ACHs.  Reducing the number of fume hoods, by centralizing or making hoods accessible to multiple labs—can save energy and meet requirements for safe operations. In addition, variable flow hoods should be implemented for potential energy savings, which will allow some lab spaces to operate at as low as 6 ACHs.  

  5. Bring in on-site renewables 
    In the United States, 8.5% of the national carbon footprint can be attributed to the life sciences ecosystem. By adding on-site renewables, such as wind and solar energy, companies can reduce their footprint, relieving reliance on the grid and providing alternative sources of electricity.  

Resource Efficiency 

  1. Water reuse and reduction 
    Implement rainwater harvesting systems and zero liquid discharge measures for manufacturing processes, including sustainable reuse of wastewater, reject water, and effluent water.  

  2. Sustainable building materials 
    Consider low-VOC paint, recycled materials and efficient construction technologies, such as modular construction and 3D printing. Building materials should be sustainable, locally sourced, and ideally from  renewable resources. This will impact the embodied carbon released during the lifecycle of building materials, including extraction, manufacturing, transport, construction and disposal. Concrete, steel and insulation are all examples of materials that contribute to embodied carbon emissions. 

  3. Single use vs. stainless steel biopharmaceutical systems 
    Consider water use, energy consumption and waste generation when deciding on a single-use or stainless steel system and intermediate bulk containers.  

  4. Employee benefit programs 
    Working from home and hybrid working models can decrease building energy usage. In the office, make the most of passive ventilation and daylight to help employees engage positively. In addition, compost and recycling programs directly reduce waste and help employees feel in control of their environmental impact. 

  5. Waste reduction  
    Design waste management strategies to minimize waste generation and encourage recycling and proper disposal methods. Consider ways to reduce single-use items and incentives for employees to reduce waste.   


Reference articles: Implementation of a Formal Energy-Efficient Design Process External Link; Zero Liquid Discharge in Biopharmaceutical Production External Link; Sustainable Building Trends for Life Sciences External Link; Which is more sustainable: stainless steel or single-use systems? External Link; Sustainability goes beyond zero carbon—it’s about creating greater wellness for tenants  External Link

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