The Final Frontier of Decarbonization and Low-Energy Labs: Designing Sustainable Developer-Driven Lab Buildings

Peter Rumsey, Point Energy Innovations
Jorlyn Le Garrec, Point Energy Innovations

Most laboratory buildings are designed and built by an owner who will also occupy and use the building. Universities and pharmaceutical companies represent the majority of owner-built laboratory buildings. A surge in investments in biotech and pharmaceutical startup companies has created a growing market for developer-built and owned laboratory spaces.

Developer-driven labs create challenges for design teams targeting energy efficiency and decarbonization goals. Unlike company- owned buildings, developers do not pay utility bills and have little or no incentive to lower bills, which help offset capital costs of energy efficiency measures. Additionally, due to high ventilation rates that increases HVAC demand, modern labs have very high carbon footprints. While this creates challenges for design teams, it also presents a unique opportunity to achieve more energy and carbon reduction than an equivalent office building.

In this presentation we will share our successes and lessons learned with low-energy and decarbonization of operations and embodied carbon on developer-driven lab projects. We will discuss the challenges we faced and share strategies that led to our successes. Examples include tenant requirements, impact of codes, and low-cost energy efficiency and decarbonization options. We will highlight our successful developer-driven decarbonized lab projects to show the audience members that it is possible to overcome the final frontier of decarbonized and low-energy labs.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe differences between owner-built and developer-driven laboratory design and construction;
  • Identify low-cost strategies for energy efficiency of developer-driven lab buildings;
  • Design decarbonization of lab heating systems; and
  • Investigate embodied carbon decarbonization of lab buildings.


Peter Rumsey, PE, FASHRAE, CEM, is the founder of Point Energy Innovations and is internationally recognized for his innovation and leadership in the sustainability and energy efficiency fields. Peter is an ASHRAE Fellow, Senior Fellow of Rocky Mountain Institute, and a professor at Stanford University.

Jorlyn Le Garrec, PE, LEED BD+C, WELL AP, is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. As an associate engineer at Point Energy Innovations, she specializes in the design of energy efficient, all-electric, and low carbon developer-driven lab and manufacturing buildings.


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