By: Greg Muth, Senior Lab Planner, Wilson
Architects and Betsy Blunt, Senior Lab Planner,
Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst
We took the opportunity to look at a pair of lab projects for the Univ. Massachusetts Amherst (UMA)—
the Life Science Laboratories (LSL) and the
Physical Sciences Building (PSB)—and looked
at how the approach to ventilation varies by lab
type and how the changes in current standards
impacted the design to give a sense of where we
are headed in the design of chemistry labs and,
in particular, fume hoods.
The rate of new construction at the UMA
campus has increased significantly in the past
10 years. UMA has been evaluating lessons
learned in the design and construction of lab
projects as the institution continues to build
and renovate science facilities. Mechanical
systems, utilities, controls, security, energy,
maintenance, lab size and lab design have been
the major topics of these lessons learned. The
institution has had ongoing discussions to
review current policies for ventilation in labs in
light of the new technologies and containment
for fumes, vapors, particulates and other contaminants. The LSL has snorkel exhausts at 70
cfm in open lab areas above benches, as well as
exhaust ports with blast gate dampers at 70, 100
and 220 cfm to capture heat and contaminated
exhaust generated by analytical equipment
and pumps. These ventilation devices are now
utilized throughout UMA in all new facilities
to capture heat and contaminated exhaust. LSL
has also incorporated demand-controlled ventilation in the design, measuring and sensing of
VOC and particulates in labs.
The PSB varied from the LSL in that there
was one fume hood per 355 sf, while the LSL
had only one fume hood per 1,280 sf. Other life
science and engineering buildings on campus
had only one fume hood per 860 sf. This significantly drove up the anticipated energy use
for PSB, yet the newly adopted Massachusetts
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service to be installed in the building to provide
The Building 74 project at LBNL yields many
Chemistry labs: How the new math changes everything
insights into challenges facing legacy lab build-
ings in campus environments. Clearly there’s a
place for lab renovation projects despite the myr-
iad of challenges associated with working within
existing construction. One of those aspects
in favor of renovation over new construction
is financial. Early lifecycle analyses indicated
renovation projects for creating modern, effi-
cient and cost-effective research labs for a vener-
able institution, such as LBNL.
Stan Lew, AIA, LEED AP, is an architect and
principal with RMW Architecture & Interiors in San
Francisco. He leads the firm’s environmental initia-
tives and focuses on technical and high-performance
building projects. Richard Stanton, AIA, is a Project
Director for facilities design and construction man-
agement at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
savings for the project, and resulted in approx-
imately $14 million saved over a similarly con-
structed new lab and office building of the same
size. Also of note is the sustainable advantage of
reuse which, for Building 74, allowed the project
to achieve LEED credits a new building would
not. These additional credits, coupled with the
original goal of LEED Gold, ultimately led to the
achievement of LEED Platinum certification.
Building 74 is an exemplar of the potential in
stretch energy code mandated that the PSB
achieve a similar level of energy efficiency to the
LSL. In addition, UMA Environmental Health
and Safety (EH&S) doesn’t allow filtered fume
hoods for any chemical use or process, and has
a policy that the minimum face velocity for a
fume hood will be no less than 80 fpm.
The challenge for the PSB is meeting the
energy code requirements without compromising on EH&S requirements. This meant
going back and revisiting the fundamental
assumptions about fume hoods, not simply
repeating the same strategies used on the last
project. We identified seven key fume hood
criteria that impact energy use:
• Room air change rate.
• Minimum fume hood flow rate.
• Worksurface area/hood volume.
• Face velocity.
• Sash opening.
• Nighttime setback.
By surveying how the users planned on
using the hoods, and carefully plugging each
of these variables into a model that gave us an
average cfm per hood, we were able to understand how even small changes to hood configuration impacted exhaust rates. Working
together with the user group and EH&S,
we developed a fume hood configuration
and operating protocol with the potential to
reduce overall cfm for the lab by almost 50%,
or roughly $100,000 per year in energy costs.
So, what did we learn?
• In an ideal world minimum flow is much
more important than face velocity.
• Height matters—if you don’t need the extra
height, don’t put it in.
• There needs to be a standard developed for
evaluating fume hoods in minimum flow
• Low-flow hoods don’t necessarily save energy in every application.
• Close the sash.
Chemistry labs are some of the biggest energy consumers on any campus, but by challenging the assumptions around fume hoods
and understanding how the variables impact
exhaust rates, it’s possible to see big reductions
in overall energy use.
Greg Muth is a Senior Lab Planner and Project
Manager at Wilson Architects with over 25 years
of experience in labs and other high-tech spaces.
He has been involved in the construction and
renovation of over 15 million sf of S&T spaces
around the world. Betsy Blunt is a Senior Lab
Planner in Design and Construction Management at the Univ. of Masssachusetts Amherst,
assessing research faculty needs.
Northwest Laboratory fit-out, Harvard Univ. Image:
Wilson Architects. Photographer: Anton Grass-Esto
Life Science Laboratories, Univ. of Massachusetts
Amherst. Image: Wilson Architects. Photographer: