Sustainable Laboratory Design and Construction
Sustainability Basics and Design
Over the past decade, it has become readily apparent hat the global environment is increasingly sensitive to human activity. The effects of global warming, increasing energy costs, dramatic climate changes and shortages of raw materials, potable water and food strain the global
community. To maintain economic growth with diminishing
resources, reduce the vast emissions and waste products we
create and provide for a healthy and comfortable future
work environment, numerous initiatives have been started to
create sustainable activities. These sustainability philosophies
now permeate all aspects of human society. In this report, we
focus on those implementations targeted toward the creation
and operation of the modern research laboratory.
Sustainability in the design, construction and operation
of a research lab involves reducing the overall costs of each
segment (design, construction and operation), reducing the
resources required by each and the overall waste products
generated. The overarching goal of lab managers in their sustainability efforts is to build and operate their labs in the most
natural manner possible and in ways that either minimize or
negate the research lab’s effects on the environment.
Architects, scientists, engineers, lab planners and designers
investigate all the available aspects of accomplishing these goals
when planning and designing a new or renovated research lab.
In the design phase, lab developers may focus on lab aspects
such as siting, solar orientation, drainage, landscaping, seasonal
weather variations, access to transportation resources, flow of
researchers through the proposed facility and urban settings. In
the construction phase, they may focus on the use or reuse of
local materials, minimization of construction-based pollution
effects, protection of natural habitats, sensitivity to brownfield
areas and reduction of construction waste materials.
And in the operational phase, they look at ways to decrease
the heating and cooling requirements; increase the researchers’ workplace lighting capabilities and reduce the volume of
chemicals, gases and other basic materials, all while maintaining or increasing the researchers’ safety and security.
The complexity and performance requirements of research
labs present unique challenges in sustainable design over that
of traditional industrial structures. In addition to these functional requirements, new research labs are now often mandated to incorporate sustainable design strategies; and many
are even required to obtain LEED (Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design) certification (see Section 2).
Having a sustainable, or “green” lab is considered an important personal feature to researchers. According to recent
reader surveys performed by the editors of R&DMagazine
and Laboratory Design Newsletter, nearly 90% of those
surveyed considered having a “green lab” as important. Of
those not considering implementing a “green lab” project,
their objections center on costs and size (their labs are too
small to install sustainable systems). However, employing a
sustainable design philosophy during each phase of a new or
renovated research lab design process reduces the negative
impacts of that project on the environment and researchers,
while minimizing the effects on the overall costs.
Costs are certainly an important aspect of implementing a
sustainable lab design. The researcher survey respondents, consisting primarily of research lab directors, consulting engineers
and architects, facility managers and research scientists and
engineers, stated that the most important consideration in pursuing development of a sustainable lab was for energy savings
and efficiency—this aspect was chosen by nearly two-thirds of
the survey respondents. Other considerations noted by the sur-
Is Having a "Green Lab" Important?
Sustainability Basics and Design. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
LEED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Green Construction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
ChangesandTrends ......................... 14
Editor’s Note: The analysis, tables and charts presented in
this report summarize responses to surveys on Sustainable
Laboratory Design and Construction performed by the editors of R&D Magazine and Laboratory Design Newsletter
in 2014. All graphics and data are copyright by Advantage
Business Media, 2014.
Lower energy operating costs outweigh the extra cost to install sustainable systems.