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Laboratory Codes and Standards: Energy Efficiency and Human Health

Thursday, October 23
Hosted by Harvard University

The laboratory typically consumes between four and five times as much energy as typical commercial space. For campuses like Harvard's Longwood Campus, this poses an enormous challenge with rising energy costs and the related environmental impact of greenhouse gases and air pollution. However, it also poses an enormous opportunity for energy conservation.

This breakfast session explored two key areas related to this challenge:

  • A summary of recent exploratory research on the relationship between codes, standards, and the energy efficiency of laboratories.
  • A discussion of opportunities to develop a multi-university research Center that would conduct research on the linkages between the environment, health, productivity, and the build form, with a particular emphasis on energy use in laboratories and the codes and standards that support them.

Summary of Research Findings

At the meeting, Harvard representatives presented the key findings of a national survey of engineers, architects, and facility managers to determine the current code and standard impediments to energy efficient laboratory design, renovation, and operations. The survey was generated through a partnership between Labs21, the Harvard Green Campus Initiative, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

An analysis of the survey results was also presented in order to inform a group discussion about possible next steps to improve the regulatory landscape, remove barriers, and put in place effective drivers for the design and operation of energy efficient and healthy laboratories.

Proposed Center

Harvard also sought input on a proposed Center focused on these issues. During the summer of 2003, the Harvard Green Campus Initiative brought together a group of professors, facilities managers, health and safety officials, and design professionals from five Universities to talk about rising energy use in laboratories, and what can be done about it. The group has overseen the EPA-funded research described above. Presently, key representatives from Harvard, MIT, and Northeastern University are working to form a research consortium that could expressly research these issues. The Center would bring together notable academics, engineers, architects, landscape architects, and policy-makers from a range of institutions in order to convene, generate, and distribute the latest information in the field. Its leadership could produce the following kinds of resources and research:

  • Further opinion research exploring how industry professionals see the relationship between codes and standards and energy efficient design.
  • Opinion papers and advocacy to inform and influence regulatory reform.
  • Research into the human health impacts of a variety of laboratory designs and technologies.
  • The development of a Manual for the Design, Construction, Maintenance, and Operation of Energy Efficient University Research Laboratories. This could be University-focused, sustainability-oriented, and case study-based, and would fill a need that is seen by the group as critical.
  • The use of the schools themselves as a living laboratory. Already at Harvard there are cutting edge, energy efficient research laboratories being designed with the purpose of studying the energy savings and testing the human health implications of these university research laboratory spaces.

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