Skip to main content Skip to main content

Applying Sustainable Approaches to Laboratory Design: Lessons Learned

Gregory Mella and Victor Cardona, SmithGroup

The session will illustrate the perceived roadblocks in applying sustainable approaches to laboratory design, and will illustrate solutions to overcome those challenges through the presentation of a case study, the St. Mary's College of Maryland - Academic Lab Building, designed to meet LEED® Gold certification. The St. Mary's College (scheduled completion date: July 2007) lab is a 58,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art chemistry and psychology teaching and research laboratory including laboratories for chemistry and psychology, and vivarium. The lab is also the first state-owned facility to attempt LEED certification in accordance with former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening's executive order on sustainable design. As a result, the project documented the life-cycle costs of all of the sustainable lab strategies so that the state might better understand the cost implications of sustainable design. The project includes many sustainable strategies well suited for lab projects including:

  • Latent and sensible energy recovery wheel for lab exhausts
    • Risk of contamination
    • Economic justification/analysis of system
  • Low-flow fume hoods in lieu of VAV fume hoods
    • Changes to the lab module, planning ahead of time
    • Questions of effectiveness
    • Economic justification/analysis of system
  • "Green" materials in lab spaces
    • Alternatives to epoxy resin flooring
    • Alternatives to epoxy-resin countertops
  • Challenges to using a greywater system for the labs
    • Reusing waste from lab sinks
    • Opportunities outside the lab
  • Zoning plans for natural ventilation
    • Operable windows in labs
    • Zoning offices away from labs
  • Daylighting lab spaces
    • Considering daylight tubes
    • Providing even, glare-free lighting in labs
    • The benefits of daylight in labs

The session will examine these strategies including discussion of the cost-implications, planning requirements, and lessons-learned in applying these strategies to a real project.

Labs21 Connection:

Maryland's Executive Order—Sustaining Maryland's Future with Clean Power, Green Buildings and Energy Efficiency—set out "to preserve and enhance precious natural resources", to "sustain Maryland's economy and the health and quality of life of its citizens", and "to demonstrate Maryland's commitment to enhancing the natural environment while realizing economic savings." The focus on stewardship, safety and economic efficiency parallels Labs21's goals. As the only laboratory pilot project, the design of St. Mary's College Lab applied the shared goals of Labs21 and the State of Maryland to laboratory design.

Consistent with the Labs21 approach, the design team assessed sustainable opportunities from a "whole-building" approach, using life-cycle cost analysis as an important decision-making tool. Working with a commissioning agent during the design, the project incorporated a comprehensive, whole building commissioning process. Targeting a 35 percent reduction in energy consumption and a 40 percent reduction in water consumption, the design features a range of energy and water efficiency strategies. The design also exceeds LEED requirements for use of "green" construction materials both inside and beyond the laboratory spaces.

To help the state evaluate the impacts of the Executive Order, the designers documented first cost and life-cycle costs for every sustainable strategy, illustrating that environmental stewardship, safety, and economic viability go hand-in-hand.


Greg Mella is a registered architect and a LEED accredited professional with a strong interest in green buildings. In his role as project architect for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Philip Merrill Environmental Center, Greg worked closely with the client to carry out the Foundation's mission of sustainability and stewardship. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Headquarters, dubbed the "greenest" office building in America, was the first U.S. recipient of a LEED Platinum rating. The project was also named one of the AIA Committee on the Environment's Top Ten Green Buildings for 2001. Additional accolades include the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's Northeast Green Building Award as well as a 2001 Business Week/Architectural Record Award.

Greg's current projects include an environmental education center for the City of Chicago and a Research and Education Center for Clemson University, both are targeted to attain a LEED platinum rating. Mella is project architect for the laboratory building at St. Mary's College of Maryland, which is expected to be the first at St. Mary's to earn a LEED rating.

In 2001, Greg testified before the U.S. Department of Energy on the National Energy Policy on behalf of the American Institute of Architects and is a frequent lecturer on sustainable design. Greg is contributing to an international dialogue on green design. He was a member of the U.S. team in the International Green Building Challenge 2002, an international effort to evaluate and improve the performance of buildings worldwide. He is a member of both the national and the local Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architect's Committee on the Environment. Greg holds a Master of Architecture degree from The Catholic University of America and is a registered architect in the state of Virginia.

Victor Cardona, AIA, NCARB, is an experienced architect with a national reputation. He serves as SmithGroup's in-house leader for laboratory programming and planning. Victor has been involved in all phases of corporate, government and academic instructional and research laboratory development, from preliminary design through construction observation.

He has extensive experience in project management, programming, conceptual design, and facility planning. He has developed a proven design methodology based on an intensive analysis/ programming phase, using an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to enable an innovative, quality design solution that meets the client's/user's needs. Victor also created SmithGroup's proprietary LabSim™ program, a computerized laboratory program simulation model.

Victor authored the article on "Casework Strategies for the 'Plug-and-Play' Lab" in the 2005 Laboratory Design Handbook by R&D Magazine, revised for 2006, and the Forensic Laboratories: Handbook for Facility Planning, Design, Construction, and Moving, published by the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute of Science and Technology, Department of Commerce, April 1998.

Back to the Agenda

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.