Electrification in Laboratories: Aspirations and Challenges

John McDonald, SmithGroup

Many organizations and institutions aspire to reduce their operational carbon footprint in accordance with the 2030 challenge. An all-electric lab design can reduce the operational carbon footprint, while also making their facilities energy-efficient. Electrification in the built environment allows us to look at buildings through a different lens to achieve this goal. User requirements, demands, and fiscal constraints are a reality that can be addressed to achieve these goals.

While electrification in labs is commonly adopted in some regions, it is still not ubiquitous across the country. We will provide an overview and project-specific examples behind the applications of electrification specific to all-electric labs. We will discuss benefits, opportunities, and challenges to electrification. Project case studies will be presented from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, City College of San Francisco, and California State University East Bay. We will compare and contrast the spectrum of strategies across the various institutions.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain and provide education on electrification in labs;
  • Identify challenges of construction cost considerations during the design process;
  • Identify challenges of operational considerations during the design process; and
  • Understand geographic implications of electrification tying into the grid.


John McDonald specializes in laboratory mechanical design, with a wealth of knowledge in leading green mechanical engineering projects. John has robust experience in leading design of multi-disciplinary facilities for research, multi-species vivariums, cleanrooms, ABSL-3, and BSL-3 facilities. He has spoken nationally over the course of his career.


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