Building Management

How to optimize your lab’s energy efficiency without compromising its compliance or safety

The mission of a laboratory is to conduct research, but as with any enterprise, energy efficiency affects the bottom line. Faced with the double imperative of reducing energy waste while adhering to strict regulatory requirements, lab managers carry a unique burden.

Why is energy efficiency important?

Compared to an office building, the average lab uses 10 times more energy per square foot. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that reducing lab energy use by 30% would lower national energy consumption by 84 trillion BTUs. In energy savings terms, that’s equivalent to removing 1.3 million cars from the highways.

Energy use index by building sector and site energy use in laboratory buildings.

Energy use index by building sector and site energy use in laboratory buildings.

The successful energy management life-cycle approach

By launching an energy management program, a laboratory will gain energy savings without compromising regulatory compliance or safety. Here are the basics of a 4-step life-cycle approach:

1. Audit and measure energy use

  • Collect data to determine where and how the lab uses energy
  • Establish an energy metering strategy to measure utility use
  • Conduct an audit to build an energy action plan

2. Fix the basics

  • Upgrade equipment using low-energy lighting, low-loss transformers, and high efficiency motors
  • Motivate and educate staff to assure support for an energy action plan

3. Optimize through automation and regulation

  • Use automated controls to keep heating, cooling, and humidity settings within efficiency tolerances
  • Integrate laboratory airflow control systems with building automationsystems

4. Monitor and maintain for continuous improvement

  • Monitor systems for any needed maintenance to keep the energy plan on track
  • Engage the right resources to analyze and resolve any negative shifts in efficiency
The energy management life cycle leverages the deployment of both passive and active efficiency best practices

The energy management life cycle leverages the deployment of both passive and active efficiency best practices

Energy management for laboratories is not an easy process; it requires time and effort. But laboratories that adopt the energy management life-cycle approach realize payback in reduced energy costs, improved efficiency and long-term sustainability – without compromising employee safety. You’ll find a detailed discussion of this topic in this new white paper, “Four Steps for Improving Energy Efficiency in Laboratories.” You might also find it helpful to see how the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) is creating an intelligent research facility. I encourage you to go to Schneider Electric TV and watch the SAHMRI video.

For more information on this approach, as it relates to improving energy efficiency in a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, I encourage you to read my blog titled, Active Energy Management: The Right Prescription for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plants. Included in this blog is another free white paper that outlines this energy management process in more detail.

How is your laboratory addressing the energy challenge? Let us know in the comments.

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