Environmental Energy Technologies Division News

Environmental Energy Technologies Division News
  • EETD News Home
  • Back Issues
  • Subscribe to EETD News
  • Print

Rating "Green" Laboratories—Labs21 Environmental Performance Criteria

Laboratory facilities present a unique challenge for energy efficient and sustainable design, with their inherent complexity of systems, health, and safety requirements, long-term flexibility and adaptability needs, energy use intensity, and environmental impacts. The typical laboratory is about three to five times as energy intensive as a typical office building and costs about three times as much per unit area. Any efforts to reduce energy use and environmental impact are heavily impacted by special functional and health and safety requirements, which need to be considered in the design and operation of laboratories.

The Laboratories for the 21st Century (Labs21) Program addresses these issues, and is aimed at improving environmental performance of public and private laboratory buildings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are the lead sponsors of this effort. EETD's Applications Team plays a major role in the Labs21 program, in the development of design tools, energy efficient fume hoods, lab design courses, and in providing technical assistance to public and private sector laboratory projects.

Labs21 EPC—Building on the Success of LEED

The Labs21 Environmental Performance Criteria (EPC) is a rating system for use by laboratory building project stakeholders to assess the environmental performance of laboratory facilities. It builds on the U.S. Green Building Council's LEEDTM Rating System. LEED has become the de facto standard in the U.S. for rating sustainable design. Some city, county, and federal agencies have adopted it and even require its use in new building projects. However, LEED was primarily designed for commercial office buildings and as such, lacks some attributes essential to encouraging the application of sustainable design principles to laboratory buildings. Labs21 recognized the need for a tool to provide guidance and evaluate laboratory environmental performance, and that building upon a recognized rating tool like LEED would avoid "re-inventing the wheel."

Graph illustrating EPC credits, broken down into New, Same as LEED and Modified, in Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation and Design Process

Figure 1. EPC credits in each section.

The Labs21 EPC follows the format of LEED Version 2.0. In this point-based rating system, credits are awarded for various green design features. Based on the number of credits earned, a building can be rated as certified, silver, gold, or platinum. The EPC adds to the existing LEED credits and prerequisites and in a few cases has modifications to the existing LEED credits. Figure 1 compares the total number of credits in each section of the EPC. The EPC is more heavily weighted towards energy and atmosphere credits, since energy use has a more significant environmental impact when compared to other commercial buildings.

The laboratory-specific prerequisites and credits added in the EPC are included in the following areas:

Sustainable sites

  • Use of physical and computational modeling to assess and reduce impact of air effluents.
  • Elimination of water effluents into sanitary sewer.

Water efficiency

  • Eliminating use of potable water for open loop water systems for laboratory equipment.
  • Documenting and reducing process water use and process waste water generation.

Energy and Atmosphere

  • Selection of minimum ventilation rate to achieve optimal balance between user needs, health/safety protection and energy consumption.
  • Reduction of energy consumption through the use of energy efficient laboratory systems and equipment.
  • Use of efficient on-site energy generation systems to reduce source energy use.
  • Right-sizing mechanical equipment by improving estimates of heat gain from laboratory equipment.

Materials and Resources

  • Reduction and management of hazardous material stream.
  • Chemical resource management plan to reduce and manage laboratory chemical supplies.

Indoor Environmental Quality

  • Use of computational fluid dynamics to optimize indoor air-flow for contaminant containment.
  • Conducting fume hood commissioning as per ASHRAE standard 110.
  • Use of fail-safe and self-identifying alarm systems.

The Labs21 EPC is a work in progress. EPC version 2.0 was released in October 2002. It is being developed in a consensus-based approach by a diverse group of more than 40 architects, engineers, consulting experts, health and safety personnel and facilities personnel. EETD's Applications Team leads the development of the EPC for the Labs21 Program.

Future Directions—LEED for Labs?

From the standpoint of rating systems, complex buildings may be defined as those that have special functional requirements that directly and significantly impact sustainability criteria e.g,. laboratories, large hospitals. Such buildings challenge the applicability of a general rating system for all commercial buildings, and may well justify the development of a LEED version for that particular building type. The USGBC has shown considerable interest in the EPC and its potential application as a LEED for Labs. Obviously, there are advantages to having only one version of a rating system, and the number of "special" versions should be kept to a minimum. Also, the special versions should as far as possible maintain all the existing LEED credits (e.g,. the EPC modifies only two LEED credits). With appropriate guidelines and standards for creating special versions for complex buildings, LEED can broaden its scope while maintaining overall consistency.

— Paul Mathew

For more information, contact:

  • Paul Mathew
  • (510) 486-7952; fax (510) 486-7800

For a copy of the draft EPC Version 2.0 and the response form to participate in the evaluation of the EPC rating system, please see http://issfps.lbl.gov/Labs21/epc.html. For more information on the Labs21 program, please see http://www.epa.gov/labs21century. If you are interested in participating in the development of the EPC or in pilot testing it in your laboratory facility, please contact Paul Mathew.

↑ home | ← previous article | next article →