Laboratories have unique design requirements when it comes to creating a functional and productive space that is also energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Even a home or commercial construction project is a detailed and all-consuming process, but lab construction is even more so. While a home or office designer gets to focus on aesthetics, comfort, and a pleasing layout, lab design requires all of those things plus factoring in attention to strict air requirements, safety considerations, and specialized equipment needs.
With all of these factors in play, it has been frankly quite difficult for the green energy movement to create viable and cost-effective solutions for the lab construction industry. Creating environmentally friendly laboratory designs has proved to be a challenge, because it’s not as simple as choosing an energy-efficient refrigerator and installing a few solar panels on the roof. Lab environments have to be kept under specific, controlled conditions that defy traditional energy-saving measures. Therefore, certain building trends and frequently-implemented solutions just don’t work when applied to a lab.
Energy efficiency in any type of new construction, including lab construction, is guided in large part by the LEED Rating System. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” and was created by the US Green Building Council as a way to build consensus around the construction of energy efficient and environmentally friendly buildings. Their rating system awards points based on how many of the energy-efficient options a construction project is able to implement. Many of these criteria do naturally lend themselves to the construction of a laboratory, such as effective site preparation, use of recycled materials, and reduction of light pollution. But other criteria are not so easy to adapt to both meeting a lab’s needs and being environmentally friendly.
Air quality is a prime example. There are certain published requirements for how often the air in the room needs to be changed per hour in a lab. In the winter, this fresh air must be heated, and in the summer, the air must be cooled, and all the (already heated or cooled) air currently in the room must be expelled. This air turnover is much more energy-intensive than in typical commercial situations, resulting in not only the consumption of electricity, but also increased utilities costs to the lab compared to similar square footage in other commercial buildings. Nevertheless, room air changes per hour are non-negotiable. It’s not like you can just arbitrarily reduce your air changes per hour, or go to Home Depot and buy the latest model of energy-efficient air conditioners.
While the unique energy needs of a laboratory must abide by strict requirements, innovations are happening to change the landscape, improve energy efficiency, and cut costs. Certain types of high-performance fume hoods, for example, are designed to exhaust significantly less air. This contributes to maximizing a lab’s energy efficiency.
At LCS Constructors, we are committed to never, ever sacrificing your air quality or cutting corners in your lab design. We are also able to offer you the latest choices in energy-efficient options that will reduce your costs and maintain or even improve the conditions in your lab.