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Laboratory Demand-Controlled Ventilation: Applying a New and Emerging Technology at the University of California at Irvine

Rebecca Lally and Chris Abbamonto, University of California at Irvine

Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV) has been recognized as sustainable technology for lowering energy costs; however, the technology still has to maintain acceptable indoor air quality and be balanced against health and safety concerns. The current air change rate for laboratories is set at six air changes per hour (ACH) and can be reduced to address energy savings, enhance sustainability, and maintain current safe level of operations.

A laboratory demand-controlled ventilation system relies on a network of sensors to adjust the number of air changes when needed to save energy. With the system in place, the laboratory ventilation is lowered to four ACH when no contaminants are detected. When an increase in total volatile organic content (TVOC) in the space is detected, the air flow is increased depending on the room's design parameters. Contaminant detection is accomplished by the use of a photo-ionization detector.

Baseline ambient air measurements are initially noted and then simulated spills, using acetone, are performed to determine clearance times. The effectiveness of the system in maintaining a safe level of operation is determined by comparing clearance times before and after the DCV is activated.

Based on the data gathered by environmental health and safety, it is assumed that acceptable indoor air quality levels can be maintained by the system's sensing capabilities. This study has been expanded to quantify the energy use change provided by the system's modulation of the ACH in the space being monitored. The data from the DCV system will be compared with the information gathered by the data points from the building energy management system to track any realized savings and provide third party point of reference. Any safe reduction in ACH from the original design constant of around six ACH will provide significant energy use reduction and contribute to the payback of the system.


Rebecca Lally is a certified industrial hygienist and the chemical hygiene officer for the University of California at Irvine. She has 25 years of experience in environmental health and safety evaluations of laboratories including aerospace (Raytheon, Northrop, and McDonnell Douglas Corporation), academic, and private industry. Rebecca is also a diplomat of the Academy of Industrial Hygiene and an active member of the American Chemical Society.

Chris Abbamonto is the manager of energy projects for the University of California at Irvine Facilities Management. He holds a Bacherlors of the Arts in general biology with a Master's in Business Administration expected in 2009. His background includes over 10 years of construction management experience focusing on a variety of facilities, including Honda North America, North Orange County Community College District, Boeing, Experian, and the Port of Long Beach. Abbamonto is also a member of the University of California at Irvine Sustainability Committee.

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