By Peter Coffey
The United Nations defines sustainable development as meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own
needs.” When applied to lab planning and
construction, sustainability includes: the efficient use of energy; the careful use of water—
in terms of volume used and quality after use;
efficient use of material resources—using
only what’s needed; adaptability to future
needs—avoiding overbuilding or options that
shorten the building’s useful life; and reducing
Most critically, the new or renovated space
must serve the science within and approaches
used in pursuit of sustainability must represent sound planning for the economical,
long-term use of a building or lab. An often
overlooked opportunity to improve the sustainability of a lab building is the vacuum
utility. Traditional practice for building vacuum supply, relying most commonly on water
aspirators or central vacuum systems, often
conflicts with sustainability objectives.
TRADITIONAL VACUUM SUPPLY OPTIONS
One of the oldest options for producing
vacuum in a lab is the water jet aspirator.
With these devices, cold water rushes through
a tube attached to a faucet and the rush of
water causes suction on a side arm connected to the vacuum application. These devices
produce fairly deep vacuum that can be helpful in evaporative applications common in
chemistry labs (though the available vacuum
varies with water pressure and temperature).
Unfortunately, water jet aspirators suffer in a
While they are very inexpensive to purchase
and are quite adaptable as needs change, a
single aspirator operating at about 2 gpm for
only ten hours a week will waste 50 to 60,000
gallons of water per year to produce vacuum.
All that water—plus the plumbing capacity to
supply all that water and treat it to remove the
solvents vapors sucked into it—is expensive,
quickly offsetting the low initial cost of the
devices. For these reasons, LEED standards
currently restrict use of aspirators in buildings
seeking certification, and some states have
prohibited aspirators altogether.
Central vacuum relies on large pumps
and ballast tanks, supporting building-wide
networks of (usually) copper piping. The
most corrosion-resistant pump technologies
frequently operate 24/7, producing vacuum
during nights and weekends (70% of the hours
in a week) when few people are using it. This
approach also uses a lot of energy. Some cen-
tral vacuum pumps can adapt somewhat to
demand, but the pump that responds—even
to a single user—is a very large pump. Because
building-wide central vacuum installations
are so inflexible, they are usually oversized
to ensure that vacuum can be made available
anywhere in the building should the need arise
in the future. Unfortunately, this approach
consumes a lot of resources in order to pre-
serve an option of adaptability in the future.
From a scientific standpoint, a single, build-
ing-wide system means that chemists and
biologists share the same vacuum supply, even
though their needs differ and may compete.
Central vacuum levels work well for the mod-
est demands of filtration and aspiration—in
Lab vacuum and sustainable design: Issues and opportunities
The 2014 I2SL Annual Conference remains the country’s premier educational and networking opportunity
for those who design, build, own, and operate sustainable laboratories and other high-tech buildings.
Learn more at: www.i2sl.org/conference/2014.html.
2014 I2SL Annual Conference
The 2014 I2SL Annual Conference, taking place at the Caribe Royale in Orlando,
Florida, provides a unique opportunity for your organization to meet with high-tech
facility owners, managers, designers, users, and others. The following are just a few ways
to participate in the valuable activities I2SL has to offer in 2014.
Answer the Call for Presenters
If you have in-depth expertise in sustainable laboratory or high-tech facility design,
engineering, equipment, or operation, submit an abstract to present at the 2014 I2SL
Annual Conference. Abstracts will be accepted through Friday, March 21, 2014.
Secure Your Spot in the Technology and Services Fair
Put your organization in front of I2SL’s niche conference audience by exhibiting in the
Technology and Services Fair. Booth staff will receive the lowest conference registration
rates available and companies that have exhibited for five or more years receive a $500
discount per booth. The Technology and Services Fair floor plan is now available, so you
can choose your booth space when you register.
Show Your Support with Sponsorship
Draw the attention of hundreds of organizations expected to be represented at the
conference. Sponsorship options start at just $500, and the sooner you sign up the more
time I2SL has to promote your organization.
Get More by Becoming a Member
New this year, I2SL will offer a $500 conference registration discount exclusively to
I2SL Members. Become a Member to take advantage of this and other great benefits.
Enhance Your Year with I2SL