all being spent on all R&D in academia. The vast majority of
this work is performed in research labs. Academia has taken
the lead in creating sustainable infrastructures, models and
innovations. These initiatives will only increase in scope and
become resources for technology and innovation.
The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), New York, for
example, has established interdisciplinary sustainability pro-
grams that integrate engineering and science with economics
and public policy. Among their numerous other manufactur-
ing, engineering and technology Centers, RIT has:
• Center for Sustainable Mobility for research in transpor-
tation, renewable energy and fuel cells
• Center for Sustainable Production for enhancing the en-
vironmental and economic performance of products and
• The Golisano Institute for Sustainability focusing on
interdisciplinary education, research and technology
transfer in sustainable design, manufacturing and devel-
• Sustainable Energy Systems Research Group focusing on
new energy and environmental systems
• Sustainable Print Systems Lab focusing on the development
of sustainable designs and tools for the print industry
• Systems Modernization and Sustainment Center for de-
veloping sustainable systems for commercial and military
equipment and support systems.
In fact, most universities now support or have multiple
centers for sustainable education and research. Research labs
at Harvard Univ., for example, account for nearly 50% of the
energy use at the school, but only take up about 23% of the
space. Resource conservation and energy efficiency in these
labs are of significant importance to meeting the university’s
stated goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Harvard has
initiated numerous student and faculty-supported programs to
reduce fume hood energy requirements, establish best practices
for lab freezers, find chemical alternatives, implement pack-
aging reductions and find new ways for recycling, equipment
reuse, lighting reductions, general education programs and
overall green lab certification programs.
The Center for Sustainable Building Research at the Univ.
of Minnesota, Minneapolis, has worked with outside groups
to create tools for determining lifecycle impacts on buildings
including the establishment of an extensive materials database;
development of decision-making tools and information for windows and glazing systems; and assisting in the establishment of
programs for local communities on sustainable building designs.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) is obviously a big supporter of sustainable designs through programs at its national labs.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California, in
addition to its traditional sustainability and energy-efficiency
technology development programs, has taken steps to reduce
water use in response to the extreme drought conditions on
the West Coast and to meet long-term water conservation
goals. Sustainability officers at the lab have developed a Lab
Water Action Plan that monitors and addresses water use on
a daily basis, irrigation systems, fixture retrofits, waste issues,
cooling tower operation, overall water-related energy requirements and even food consumption.
The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL),
Golden, Colo., has as its mission the development of enhanced
energy and sustainability technologies from the development of
new highly efficient photovoltaics and wind-generating turbines
to the establishment of state-of-the-art research lab facilities.
NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) is the latest
example of these efforts. ESIF is R&DMagazine’s 2014 Laboratory of the Year award winner for its engineering, technology,
planning and program development. A LEED 2009 Platinum
certified facility, ESIF optimizes the design and performance of
electrical, thermal and fuel systems at different and interrelated
scales, ranging from homes and businesses to communities and
Level of Installed Sustainable Systems
0 10 20 30 40 50
More Than 10 Systems Installed
6 to 10 Systems Installed
2 to 5 Systems Installed
1 System Installed 16%
What Should Be Done to Promote Sustainable Lab
Design and Construction?
Improve the efficacy of rules —Many regulations are based
on incorrect assumptions and don’t make sense.
Designs first need to be realized where the technology will
be useful and not affect lab productivity.
All building materials should be at LEED levels so designers
don't have to work so hard to get and certify them.
Work more closely with actual lab occupants.
ROI justification and industry benefits need to be en-
Organizations need to be forced to use lower energy fume
hoods, since traditional versions use so much energy.
Verify that “savings” are real, not just chosen to “buy” LEED
Clear supported evidence that the addition of “green” tech-
nologies leads to long-term operational savings.
If the initial costs were to decrease, it would lead to growth.
Owners need to take the lead in having less monetary goals
and more intrinsic goals.