Design Decisions: Lasting Impacts on Lab Safety, Performance, and Energy

Chris Schmidt, B2Q Associates
Simon von Nieda, B2Q Associates

When designing lab buildings, decisions made during the design and construction process lasting impacts for the life of the building and its occupants that go beyond initial project cost. This presentation discusses the decisions made during the design and construction phase and how they affect laboratory safety, energy use, and maintenance by reviewing lessons learned and general observations from engineers and commissioning agents in the field tasked with optimizing new and old systems alike.

This presentation will discuss design considerations for both primary equipment and zone-level HVAC and lab systems and their impacts throughout the life of the building. Points of discussion will include: sizing of terminal devices, sizing of AHUs/EFs, utilizing fan coil units for zone cooling vs VAV cooling, VAVs vs air valves for lab supply and general exhaust, AHUs with heat pipe vs heat wheels, and considerations when selecting exhaust fans to maintain proper exit velocity.

Additionally, the presentation will touch on design decisions not related to HVAC equipment such as lab configuration, pressurization, and location of specialty exhaust also have lasting impacts on energy use. Poor choices during in these areas can lead to poor lab safety, poor lab airflow control, high energy use, airflow imbalance between labs, building negativity and general discomfort of building occupants.

In summary, it is incumbent on the Owners and their design and construction teams to consider the impact their decisions have over the life of the building. Life cycle impacts should be considered to weigh various aspects of equipment selection, with the understanding that value engineering and decisions based on first-cost can saddle the Owner and building occupants with much higher lifetime costs in terms of excess energy, higher maintenance costs, down time, lost research, etc.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the decisions made during design and construction and how they impact laboratory performance over the life of the building;
  • Review of common laboratory terminal device and lab AHU/EF designs options and understand the pros and cons with various options;
  • Analyze the energy impact of equipment choices over the life of the equipment/building; and
  • Review other life-cycle impacts of other HVAC-related lab design decisions.


Chris is a Vice President and Principal with B2Q Associates and is a mechanical engineer with a Masters of Science in Engineering from the University of Dayton, with a focus in commercial and industrial building energy efficiency. He has over 18 years experience working in building efficiency, HVAC mechanical and controls systems optimization, re-commissioning, and project management and he co-teaches the Association of Energy Engineers Existing Buildings Commissioning course.

Simon is a Designer with B2Q Associates and is a mechanical engineer with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has 3 years of experience working in energy efficiency, controls systems, and re-commissioning, with a focus on laboratory buildings. He has been the primary designer on multiple laboratory Retro-Commissioning design and implementation projects which have achieved upwards of 2,500,000 kWh in avoided energy costs.


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