What Budget Trade-offs Can You
Consider in Designing a “Green” Lab?
New fume hood controls mean downtime for R&D, which
will reduce worker efficiency for a while.
Up-front cost increase in exchange for lower operating costs.
More automated systems to reduce insitu lab personnel
and hence lighting, heating, etc.
Not putting fume hoods in every lab.
Smaller infrastructure for better technology.
Across the company commitment to save money in all
aspects of business operations.
Reduce lab size to increase sustainability.
Scale back on purchasing timelines.
Smaller chemical purchases resulting in less waste.
Purchase washable glassware instead of disposable
Increase operational efficiency with reduced employee hours
tablished for a new construction lab facility. There also are
additional LEED credits provided for the implementation of
those plans. Once again, the actual operation of the sustainable research lab should have plans established beforehand for managing the waste generated within the lab. This
should include systems for recycling solids and chemicals,
utilization of green cleaners and solvents, acceptable and
safe waste treatment processes, sustainable washing systems
and non-polluting incineration techniques and systems.
Studies on the effect of implementing mostly simple
sustainable waste management systems within the research
lab have found that overall waste can be reduced by up to
50%, with an associated 40% reduction of the required
energy use. Operating costs from these systems can also be
reduced by up to a third, however, in some cases, the operating costs can be increased by more than 10% with their
use. The studies also found that researcher productivity can
be improved by up to 20% for waste management issues.
New versus Renovated
So what are the sustainability-based differences between
building a new “green” research lab and renovating an
existing lab to “green” status? We asked the readers of
R&D Magazine and Laboratory Design Newsletter with the
“Building a new ‘green’ research lab allows architects and
engineers to design and customize the lab to whatever level
they desire,” says one lab manager. “However, renovating
an existing research lab to a ‘green’ lab status allows them
to improve their lab energy efficiency and usage without
moving to a new work location, while reducing the waste
created by tearing down the existing building for the sake
of building a new ‘green’ lab.”
The downtime associated with renovations was noted by
several respondents, which introduces critical productivity
and overall product development issues. The comparative-
ly short time required to move to a new facility would be
“Ground-up construction of a new facility allows for bet-
ter flexibility for building a high-performance envelope and
integrating new MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumb-
ing) systems,” says another lab manager. “Renovation to a
‘green’ status is, of course, sustainable too, but it’s not as
flexible for incorporating ‘green’ initiatives.”
Differences in costs between the two choices was also
noted with many stating that they might not be able to
reach the goals of a “green” lab without considerable costs
and work disruptions—these would be easier to achieve
when starting from scratch.
New construction can be a lower cost choice, they commented, as energy efficiency can be built into the structure—if appropriate architects and engineers are employed.
“This is like buying a new car equipped with air conditioning, as opposed to adding those devices to your old car,”
says a respondent. Renovations may be constrained by an
existing building infrastructure that can’t be easily changed,
so that you might not be able to make your plan as “green”
as you would like.
Renovation contraints focus the mind and the designer,
says one respondent. “We review at a finer detail all the
decisions in a renovation and then balance them with the
What's Involved in Designing and Building a
Review specs of lab equipment, appliances and resources
to minimize energy use and generation of environmentally
Proper assessment of lab needs, while planning for differ-
ent possible uses in the future. Maximum sustainability
designs can make changing the space nearly impossible for
“Green” starts from the first day of planning, how the building is oriented on the site, meeting all the codes and standards and balancing that with lab safety and functionality.
Keeping building costs down, creating a safe and pleasant
place to work, making sure that the building is in compliance with work standards and reliable products are used.
It needs to be a holistic approach, not just hitting items on
a LEED checklist; all systems need to be studied and related
to each other.
An understanding of specific lab needs that can be
matched to appropriate “green” solutions. Scientific labs for
biology and chemistry don’t have the same requirements.