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Cost Effective Indoor Environmental Monitoring to Save Energy and Increase Lab Safety

Gordon Sharp, Aircuity, Inc.

Many aspects of a lab are monitored today in real time such as energy and water consumption, HVAC equipment operation, or lab room and hood airflow quantities. However, the quality of lab room airflow or more specifically, the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) performance of a lab, beyond just temperature or perhaps humidity, is rarely monitored due to sensor cost and calibration issues. This is unfortunate, since detailed IEQ monitoring data can be used to substantially reduce lab energy consumption, increase lab safety and with some additional analysis, this data can be used to perform effective continuous commissioning.

This presentation discusses a new type of real time, multipoint monitoring technology. Packets of air and data are routed through a unique, hollow structured cable to enable the use of only one set high quality environmental sensors to cost effectively sense 20 to 40 lab rooms and support spaces in a multiplexed approach. Typical sensed parameters would be temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, fine particles, TVOC's, air PH, carbon monoxide, and even differential static pressure.

This technology can be interfaced with a suitable lab control system to implement Lab Demand Control Ventilation (Lab DCV) to significantly reduce lab energy consumption by safely reducing a lab's minimum air change per hour (ACH) requirements from 6 to 12 ACH to as low as 2 ACH. The presentation discusses the requirements of the monitoring technology to safely implement this control approach and gives some field experiences.

Other applications of this multipoint monitoring technology involve real time detection of unsafe lab practices such as the use of chemicals on a bench top vs. inside a hood. Another application that is described is continuous monitoring and diagnosis of the lab control system as well as aspects of the HVAC system to help implement continuous commissioning.

Labs21 Connection:

The multipoint technology described in this presentation is new and provides significant life cycle cost economies in labs. Furthermore, a first in the industry artificial intelligence based expert system will be discussed that can be used to automatically generate first level commissioning reports on the lab control system and parts of the HVAC system.

This expert system can also benchmark a lab's or facilities IEQ performance by objectively rating the building using many different IEQ parameters and then comparing the facility to an aggregated measure of other facilities to generate a percentile rating. Finally, this technology can be used to continuously validate and improve the safety of the lab by monitoring for levels of contaminants in the room that might prove harmful to the lab occupants. Alarms can then be provided to alert both occupants and management as well as to provide control outputs to increase ventilation.


Gordon Sharp is chairman of Aircuity, Inc. of Newton, Massachusetts, a web-based provider of technology to evaluate and optimize the performance of buildings regarding energy efficiency, comfort, and indoor air quality. He has a BSEE and MSEE from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and holds 20 U.S. patents, many in the area of fume hood and laboratory airflow controls.

In 1985, Mr. Sharp founded Phoenix Controls with the invention of a unique airflow control system for laboratory fume hoods. Phoenix Controls was named for three years in a row by INC Magazine as one of the 500 fastest growing private companies in America.

In February of 1998, Phoenix Controls Corporation was acquired by Honeywell, Inc. Mr. Sharp continued as President of Phoenix Controls Corporation, launching a new operating unit within Honeywell until 2000, when the business unit became a separately owned company now named Aircuity, Inc.


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