[Skip to Content]
Laboratory

A typical laboratory uses five times more energy and water per square foot compared to office buildings and other facilities. This is due to the energy-intensive nature of laboratory activities – which require containment and exhaust devices, large pieces of heat-generating equipment, and fail-safe back-up systems – as well as intensive ventilation and other requirements to address health and safety. Greening the laboratory does not require compromising the quality of the work being carried or the safety of its users – but it does require rethinking the way we design laboratories and a better understanding by users of the ways that their activities impact the environment. 

Share
Tilt device for optimal viewing Click on a hotspot to learn sustainable strategies and compare materials for that system
  • Lighting
  • Lighting

    • Choose moveable task lighting with a magnetic mount or an articulated arm to provide light where it is needed.
    • Choose high efficiency LEDs or use compact fluorescent bulbs in task lighting.
    • Leave overhead light levels low (e.g. 15 foot candles) or off and use task lighting on benches. Make task lighting the primary lighting source, rather than an optional or supplemental source.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Windows and Daylighting
  • Windows and Daylighting

    • Install daylighting control systems (e.g. photosensors) with zones for electric lights that are dimmed or switched off when there is adequate sunlight.
    • Specify light-colored interior spaces to help distribute natural light more effectively.
    • Add interior or exterior light shelves to extend the daylighting zone into the laboratory space, while reducing glare. These are most effective on south facades.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Furniture / Furnishings
  • Furniture / Furnishings

    • Modular planning principles provide flexibility for future spaces that may be required due to changes in laboratory designation, equipment or departmental organization. Ensure laboratory piped services, HVAC, power and communication cables are delivered to each module in a consistent manner, and do not fix casework unless necessary (e.g., with sinks or fume hoods).
    • Before purchasing, check to see if existing furniture, perhaps in a surplus department, can serve the lab’s needs. Send unused furniture back for reuse.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Flooring
  • Flooring

    • Vinyl sheet flooring is often chosen for durability, chemical-resistance, and ability to contain spills of chemicals or other liquids. Sheet products may have a longer lifecycle in high-use chemistry and biology laboratories, where floor tiles may loosen or degrade over time.
    • In spaces used primarily for computer equipment, instrumentation, or even low-hazard chemistry work, consider rubber or linoleum floor tiles as a more cost-effective alternative with fewer health and environmental concerns.
    • Repair instead of replace floors to reduce raw material use and waste. When possible, cut out damaged sections of sheet flooring, patch, and re-weld the seams. Damaged tiles can easily be replaced.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • HVAC
  • HVAC

    • Evaluate whether chilled beams would meet your laboratory’s cooling needs better than a variable air volume system. Chilled beams not only allow for efficient and even cooling but also minimize air blowing down on lab benches and disturbing scientists' work.
    • Design ventilation based on real or virtual laboratory models that simulate airflow patterns and optimize ventilation rates under different scenarios (e.g. a spill).
    • Consolidate equipment that generates a lot of heat away in an equipment room or away from air supply to manage impact on laboratory cooling needs. Locate exhaust registers above the back of hot equipment to remove it before it recirculates into the room.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Counter Top Lab Equipment
  • Counter Top Lab Equipment

    • Compare power consumption of different equipment models when making new equipment purchases. Even when high-efficiency models are not available, energy use can vary significantly across models and operating settings, so check before buying.
    • Use switches, timers, and automatic turn-off settings on equipment that does not need to be left running when not being used for extended periods.
    • Look for equipment with automatic shut-off settings when purchasing new equipment.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Fume Hoods and Biosafety Cabinets
  • Fume Hoods and Biosafety Cabinets

    • Encourage users to close the fume hood sash when not in use by providing visual cues (e.g. magnets on fume hoods) and use training.
    • Install an energy recovery system (e.g. run around loop) to capture heat from the exhausted air being drawn from the laboratory space around the hood.
    • Turn off unused fume hoods if it is safe and practical.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Interstitial Space
  • Interstitial Space

    • Consider designing interstitial spaces into laboratories that are likely to undergo frequent modifications or renovations.
    • Carefully design interstitial space to be set back from windows. The higher ceiling height near windows will allow more daylight to enter the laboratory.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Ceiling
  • Ceiling

    • Use light-colored ceiling tiles to reflect daylight to allow natural light to effectively move throughout the space.
    • Evaluate sustainable attributes such as regional manufacturing, recycled content, and low VOC to determine the most appropriate materials to use for a sustainable ceiling.
    • Drop down soffits and accent lights decorate the space, however these features are resource intensive, use these strategies conservatively.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Lab Water Consumption
  • Lab Water Consumption

    • Shut off water using equipment when not in use.
    • Set equipment to the minimum flow rate allowable per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
    • Run glassware washers at full load only.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Space Planning
  • Space Planning

    • Modular planning principles provide flexibility for future spaces that may be required due to changes in laboratory designation, equipment or departmental organization. Ensure laboratory piped services, HVAC, power and communication cables are delivered to each module in a consistent manner, and do not fix casework unless necessary (e.g. with sinks or fume hoods).
    • Build metal wall bumpers help to minimize damage as equipment is wheeled down the hall.
    • Partition desks from lab benches but still in close proximity so that researchers can easily go back to desks and work on their computers.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Incubators
  • Incubators

    • Determine whether “low temperature” incubators are being used when warmer temperatures (at or above ambient conditions) are required. Use more energy efficient “heating only” incubators when cool temperatures are not needed.
    • When it’s time to upgrade or retire, choose an energy- and water-efficient incubator and buy the smallest size required to meet the lab’s needs. Humidification methods, chamber insulation, fan motors, internal lighting, and water technologies can all influence incubator system efficiency.
    • Do not use low temperature incubators as a refrigerator.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Ovens / Furnaces
  • Ovens / Furnaces

    • Ensure ovens and other heating equipment are turned off during unoccupied hours.
    • Keep hot equipment away room temperature sensors and thermostats to avoid distortion of room temperature.
    • Use timers for automatic shutdown and startup of drying ovens.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Tabletop Autoclave
  • Tabletop Autoclave

    • Choose the right size of autoclave to meet research needs. Choose research-grade autoclaves - rather than hospital sterilizers – for research labs where fewer sterilization cycles are needed. Countertop models use 1/50th the electricity of large floor models.
    • Ensure autoclaves are full prior to running.
    • Install timers and water-misers to shut down autoclaves overnight, especially electrically heated models.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Solid Waste
  • Solid Waste

    • Order supplies that come with the least amount of packaging or recyclable packaging. Specify reduced packaging when placing orders.
    • Return containers and packaging materials to vendors for reuse. Support vendors who will do this and specify their collection in procurement contracts. If vendors to not accept returns, specify packaging that must be recyclable.
    • Centralize storage and/or tracking system for chemicals and materials and check inventories before ordering new supplies.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Refrigerators / Freezers
  • Refrigerators / Freezers

    • Ensure refrigerators and freezers run efficiently through regular maintenance. Remove excess frost or defrost when ice is more than .25” thick, check door seals, and keep filters and coils free of dust.
    • Locate freezers away from thermostats to avoid distorting their temperature readings.
    • Share refrigerator and freezer units with neighboring labs or consolidate and unplug units within a lab.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips

  • Ultra-low Temperature Freezers
  • Ultra-low Temperature Freezers

    • Inventory and label samples and post map of contents to front of freezer to reduce search time.
    • Install energy and temperature monitoring systems and implement a predictive maintenance strategy to identify distressed freezers and take early corrective action to prevent failures.
    • Share refrigerator and freezer units with neighboring labs or consolidate and retire units within a lab. Have a plan in place for reducing the total number of ULTs.

    Click Design Guidance to View Additional Green Tips