Today, there are a few givens that challenge design teams and owners striving to create state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. First and most obvious, the work environment must be safe. Second, the largest consumer of energy in labs is the ventilation system. Third, the next generation of laboratories is striving for record reductions in energy use. Some new facilities, in fact, aim for net-zero energy operations, through a combination of many systems including heat recovery and renewable energy installations that actually generate enough power to stand alone.
To address this triple challenge-safe, well-ventilated and green-requires more than just a few high-quality fume hoods. Teams in the laboratory world must tackle the problem from a systems perspective, working on every system and material choice available.
Key goals include reducing overall heat loads and maintaining a continuous and well-insulated building enclosure, which result in optimal ventilation rates.
These are first-level systems, which include the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) plant. When first-level systems are optimized, the lab designer can consider second-level systems, including laboratory equipment and services. These process loads are too often overlooked in the design of green buildings, even by sustainability certification and advocacy groups such as LEED.
At the end of the day, if it isn't a safe laboratory, it doesn't matter how efficient or green the facility is. The real goal is to create a reliable, secure and hazard-free workspace within the framework of high performance and energy efficiency.