Challenges in Converting/Renovating an Existing Building Into New Laboratories and Meeting the New Stringent Energy Codes

Paul Tsang, Jacobs
Steven Rosen, Jacobs

It is already challenging to convert an existing commercial/office building into labs. The mechanical systems are quite different, as the labs require more ventilation air, cooling loads, temperature controls and sometimes humidity controls, as well. Existing conditions/building structures may further limit the installation of equipment and routing of ductwork.

The upcoming energy codes make the requirements more stringent. Several states are in the process of adopting new energy codes to reduce emissions in buildings including new buildings. For example, Massachusetts is proposing Executive Order 594 to reduce the emissions from onsite fossil fuels by 20% in 2025 and 35% in 2030 for all public institutions of higher education.

Different approaches will be discussed to deal with the potential limitations of the existing building. These measures include building envelopes, infiltration air, minimizing ventilation air (makeup air), supplemental cooling and energy recovery.

Learning Objectives

  • Learning the difficulties in converting existing buildings to labs;
  • Discussing energy codes/challenges in energy use;
  • Strategies to address existing limitations; and
  • System design that might help to incorporate into the existing buildings.


Paul has experience in design and construction management of mechanical systems. Paul's expertise includes HVAC systems, clean rooms, laboratories, animal facilities, process piping design, energy analysis, conservation, and heat recovery. He has managed projects in life sciences and lab building construction.

Steve has been a Design Engineer for 30 years managing projects and as a team leader. He focused on the design and maintenance of building systems. Steve has supported multiple projects within the bio-pharma industry of various complexities designing both lab and office space involving HVAC design coordinating with architectural, MEP/FP teams.


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