Skip to main content Skip to main content

Designing an Energy Efficient Automotive Testing Laboratory

Michael F. Cooper, Harley Ellis


Automotive testing laboratories are among the most unique facilities one could encounter. They are truly exhibits of cutting edge technology, allowing the transportation industry to continue to develop products that are safer, more efficient, more powerful, and less costly. These facilities offer tremendous capability, but until recently, most thought that this capability came at the expense of energy. Newer laboratories, however, are beginning to prove that this perception is not necessarily accurate. While it is true that automotive testing requires a great deal of mechanical and electrical energy, it is also true that there are opportunities to conserve energy and increase operational efficiency.

The most important thing to understand about automotive testing laboratories is that they are constructed to facilitate the development of new vehicles. Automotive testing and validation equipment utilizes energy and, unless it is feasible to compromise technical requirements, it will be very difficult to reduce this energy usage. As planners, designers and constructors of automotive testing facilities though, we know that there are a host of other opportunities and that energy efficient laboratories are possible. This presentation will focus on design strategies that help foster energy savings in automotive testing laboratories.

Life Safety: The most important design feature of any building, including automotive laboratories, is safety. These facilities house research teams that are constantly pushing the envelope of vehicle development. They also accommodate visitors that may be unaware of the potential hazards present in such a laboratory. Proper design of systems such as fire protection, gas detection, fuel distribution, and the proper integration of these systems, is an absolute must. Most people realize this, but do not realize that it is cost effective, especially when one considers the cost of an on-site injury or fatality.

Technology: Obviously, technology plays a significant role in energy savings. The design team must be aware of the available opportunities and integrate them into their work. Dedicated systems, high efficiency construction materials (i.e. insulation and glazing), variable speed motors, microprocessor based control systems, occupancy based lighting and ventilation, and systems integration are among the technologies that will help conserve energy. It is also important to note that the latest (emerging) technology is usually not the right technology for an automotive laboratory, and is almost never energy efficient.

Flexibility: A flexible laboratory successfully integrates technology with operational procedures. For instance, laboratory personnel can often schedule testing such that process equipment and systems can be shared among multiple test chambers. This not only conserves energy, but provides construction cost savings as well. Central systems, designed to accommodate future testing initiatives, will ensure that the laboratory will continue to reap the benefits of energy savings through diversity, even as the facility grows over time.

Sustainability: The United States Green Building Council has developed the LEED™ certification program to recognize facilities that conform to certain sustainable design guidelines. This program addresses almost every aspect of building design and construction, including energy conservation. While it is true that a facility designed to achieve a LEED™ certification will usually cost more to construct, it is a virtual certainty that this facility will use significantly less energy and will deliver some of that additional cost back to the owner in the form of ongoing utility savings.

It is our hope that the audience will leave this presentation with a renewed level of confidence in their ability to construct an energy efficient automotive testing laboratory, and a better understanding of some of the strategies that should be considered by their design team.


Not available at this time.

EPA Home | OARM Home | DOE Home | FEMP Home

This page is no longer updated.
EPA gave I2SL permission to house this page as a historic record of the Labs21 Annual Conference.