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Energy Conservation in Biocontainment Laboratories

Wade H. Conlan, P.E., LEED® AP, Earl Walls Associates

Laboratory air handling systems are traditionally all outside air based and consume more energy than recirculation type systems found in office buildings. There are opportunities in biocontainment laboratories where significant reductions in energy savings can be realized—even to the point that 100 percent outside air systems use less energy than recirculation systems with only 20 percent outside air.

Biocontainment facilities are great candidates for air-to-air energy recovery techniques due to the fact that the air is HEPA filtered and there is very little chemical load in the exhaust air stream. Combining multiple proven air-to-air and air-to-water heat recovery technologies in new application techniques, the audience will learn how these laboratories can operate at energy costs at a fraction of current industry benchmarks.

These savings are achievable without compromise to the indoor environmental quality expectations for new facilities. Utilizing gaseous monitoring systems, reductions in supply and exhaust air quantities can be realized in a demand controlled ventilation strategy, resulting in more energy savings.

Additional heat recovery opportunities that exist on the water side as it relates to chiller condensing temperatures and kW/ton performance will be identified.

A presentation of two similar sites, one with 100 percent outside air and one with 20 percent outside air will be presented. Metrics such as first cost, fossil fuel, and electric consumption as well as operating and maintenance costs will be illustrated. And finally, the geographical impact of locating this system in varied weather patterns across the United States will be identified.

Labs21 Connection:

The attributes associated with the approaches outlined in this presentation will illustrate significant reductions in energy cost coupled with a reduction in first cost. Typical energy cost reductions in the past have required the need for life cycle costing to justify the expenditure of funds over and above the basic or traditional systems that are customarily designed for these facilities.

This presentation will cover each of the current energy saving techniques individually to gain understanding by the audience, and then put those pieces together to show the entire system. The intent is to not only talk about the system as a "potential," but to truly show value by using actual hard data (psychrometric points and dollars) to support the concepts. I will be presenting data that should be resetting the benchmark for the operational costs of laboratories, and also indicating the potential for more than one geographical area of the country.


Wade H. Conlan, P.E., LEED AP, is the Director of Engineering at Earl Walls Associates located in Maitland, Florida, and is a 1995 graduate of Penn State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Engineering.

His project engineering experience includes complex systems for laboratories, hospitals, educational facilities, and others. His responsibilities include applying all aspects of HVAC and lab plumbing engineering to projects as well as leading in-house staff development training. Based upon his extensive energy conservation related experience, he is the co-leader of GRG's Sustainable Design Group.

Wade presented "Weighing the Pig vs. Making it Fly" at the 2005 Labs21 conference in Portland, OR, as well as "Retro-Commissioning: Is this the next "big thing" in our industry? Concrete Results from the Field" for the BCA Webcast on December 13th, 2005. Wade has previously spoken at The American Aquarium and Zoological Association regarding commissioning and HVAC design. The American Society of Heating and Refrigeration Engineers (ASHRAE) awarded Wade the Society level Milton W Garland Refrigeration Award for Project Excellence in 2004 in addition to Region XII Technical Project Awards as well as being named the Central Florida Chapter's Young Engineer of the Year Award in 2004.

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