Laboratory Safety and Energy Efficiency Made Easy: The Smart Labs Toolkit Part I

Rachel Romero, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Otto VanGeet, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The U.S Department of Energy's Smart Lab Toolkit follows distinct phases and tasks that include: Plan, Assess, Optimize, and Manage. Each phase has additional specific tasks, training, and resources proven to deliver high performance labs, support the efforts of key stakeholders and maximize benefits for the organization. This toolkit describes a proven approach to help optimize performance of laboratories and critical control environments in new or existing facilities. Resources come from the Better Buildings Smart Labs Accelerator, which has 17 partners at national laboratories and universities throughout the United States. The toolkit includes resources, case studies, videos, and more to educate users and improve laboratory safety and reduce energy consumption. To start, creating a Smart Labs program takes time to find the right stakeholders; each step will ensure higher performing labs. Organizations may utilize the process, procedures and tasks as applicable to their facilities and objectives. Rachel will introduce the toolkit and its contents. Additionally, she will cover the 'Plan' section of the toolkit. Creating a Smart Labs program takes coordination, planning, testing, exploration, innovation and a strong team effort.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the steps to developing a Smart Labs Program: Plan, Assess, Optimize, Manage;
  • Learn about the role of a Smart Lab coordinator;
  • Understand the important members of the Smart Labs team; and
  • Learn to prioritize laboratory projects through benchmarking.


Rachel Romero is an energy engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the Integrated Applications Center. Rachel provides technical assistance to the Better Buildings Smart Labs Accelerator. Rachel obtained her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Hope College and then received her master's degree in Building Systems Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and a graduate energy certificate from the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI).

Otto is a Principal Engineer at NREL. Otto has been involved in the design, and operation of energy efficient research facilities such as labs and data centers, general use facilities, and low energy use campus and community design. Otto was one of the founding members of the Labs21 program and provides technical guidance for the program. He and his family live in an off grid passive solar house with a 2 kW PV/hybrid power system and solar water heating that he designed and built 20 years ago.


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