How do you make labs green? Do you reduce energy by cutting down on the ventilation within the labs or adjust the temperature settings? Do you regulate water usage or cut down on the amount of supplies used?
These questions are difficult to answer because the effects of these practices can greatly alter a project and increase the potential health risks present in the lab setting. Some labs are very temperature sensitive and need constant ventilation due to hazardous chemicals. Other lab processes are very water intensive or sterile materials intensive such as acid washing. The amount of water used and different materials are hard to cut down because altering these processes can affect the results of the lab work. This is important because of the use
Here at the University of Virginia, an initiative deemed Green Labs here at UVA is an initiative trying to resolve this dilemma. Labs use about 33% of the total energy while taking up only 16% of the square footage of the University. This is by far the largest chunk of energy used in the whole of UVA followed by the UVA hospital at 22%. Facilities management at the university has made a goal of reducing the energy used within the labs on grounds while still allowing this institution to continue discovering ground breaking research.
So what’s the solution? At the University of California Irvine, new labs are being outfitted with new ventilation systems. These systems have sensors to determine the amount of ventilation needed at a certain time within a lab. This cuts down on the excess amount of ventilation being done when it is not needed. The systems that are in place in most current institutions have to have ventilation systems set constantly to the highest levels in order to be equipped for the “worst case scenario” when really, this isn’t needed all the time. The new system has been deemed safe and a very practical way to reduce energy costs and greatly reduce carbon footprints.
Hopefully this will be the future of labs at many universities!