Is HVAC the key to energy efficient lab design?

Published: 1-Dec-2017

John Rush, Principal Engineer, Boulting Environmental Services explains how to make your laboratory more energy efficient

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As some of the most sophisticated artificial environments on the planet, laboratories are essential in a range of industries — from pharmaceuticals to food and medicine to robotics. However, as the complexity of these facilities grows, so does their energy usage.

Laboratories are energy intensive environments, consuming 4–6 six times more energy per square metre than standard office or commercial buildings. This is mainly because of the energy intensive heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems necessary to ensure correct airflow and temperature. Because of this, any energy saving in HVAC can result in significant improvements in overall energy efficiency and impressive carbon emissions reduction. In fact, because the overall energy spend is so large when compared with other kinds of commercial buildings, even the smallest percentage saving could be valuable.

In our experience, good laboratory design can reduce energy consumption by an impressive 30–50%. One of the key reasons for this is that more than 60% of a laboratory’s energy consumption can be attributed to the HVAC system. According to a recent S-Lab audit and report, the UK’s major university laboratories consume more than 730 Kwh/m2/year.

Laboratories normally use 100% fresh air to meet safety requirements, which demands between 8–30 air changes per hour (ACH). By comparison, in a typical commercial building, as few as four ACH may suffice. It follows that safely and compliantly reducing the amount of air changes per hour in a laboratory, without impinging on performance, can significantly contribute to that 30–50% energy reduction. So how do you make some of the most energy intensive facilities in the world more efficient?

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