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A4: Design for Decarbonization


A Zero Carbon Approach to Laboratory Design


Laboratories are notorious energy users due to large exhaust and makeup air requirements, high zone level equipment loads, and the need for continuous operation throughout the year. These programmatic requirements are in direct competition with industry and regulatory goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonization.

This presentation, given by an engineering firm’s national director of science and technology, looks at an approach that has been used on several laboratory facilities to decarbonize Scope 1 emissions through building assessment, energy optimization, system electrification, and integration of renewables into the building design.


Decarbonization Opportunities in Labs  

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As the lab industry looks to meet decarbonization goals, an analysis was conducted on opportunities for reducing emissions associated with laboratory operations, such as load shifting. The presentation will provide a case study on using OpenStudio energy modeling to develop a baseline of carbon emissions and costs for current laboratory operations in a model building. The output for this study included establishing baseline emissions for a given laboratory, based on its regional location, and local electric grid emissions based on time-of-use. The project completed laboratory energy models to run energy simulation data in six climate zones in the United States. The model enabled the modeling of the grid peaks and valleys of carbon intensity for that specific region and develop ideas on how to shift loads in laboratories.    

Attendees will learn how carbon intensity of the grid can influence operational carbon emissions of a lab and identify low-cost effective strategies for optimization.  

Optimizing Whole Lifecycle Carbon Footprint in Labs

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Much of the traditional focus of sustainability has been around energy efficiency. But as technology improves, designs become more sophisticated, codes tighten, and utility grids decarbonize, the importance of a building's embodied carbon is gaining more attention. To date this effort is largely focused on structural elements, and to a lesser extent facades. However, those tell just a part of the story.  

This session will review the case study of core-and-shell lab/R&D buildings planned in Boston. Studies that quantify the operational and embodied carbon payback of efficiency measures in HVAC and envelope will be discussed. The session will discuss the value of carbon payback as a valuable tool in sustainable building design and reducing the climate impact of buildings.  

The team reviewed the operational and embodied carbon of the building’s HVAC system. This study helped optimize the sizing of heat pump capacity, using the lifecycle carbon impact of the system as part of the decision-making process. This analysis also supported the entitlement process, which in Boston which includes significant sustainability requirements. 

Understanding the impact of design on not only on EUI but on embodied carbon is essential. Exploring how one team used these metrics together to drive a sustainable solution for a proposed life science/R&D development totaling approximately 858,000 rentable square feet will demonstrate a path for optimizing a lab's whole lifecycle carbon footprint.


B4: Design for Decarbonization


Blueprint for Decarbonization In Sustainable Laboratory Design


"Blueprint for Decarbonization in the Sustainable Labs Design" is a learning tool to develop and design Sustainable laboratories applying the Decarbonization principle, utilizing the four-step approach.

In addition to the approach, the presentation provides a substantial number of details and systems which can be implemented to achieve laboratory decarbonization while having more connected responses to the environment. 

  • Step one considers utilizing a system's energy efficiency potential to reduce the embedded system carbon with energy efficacy strategies while maintaining laboratory safety.

  • Step two implements water efficiency, recovery, management, and avoidance or reduction of single-pass water use altogether.

  • Step three addresses the strategies related to the Building Management controls designed to facilitate efficiency and optimize system performance by reducing the building carbon.

  • Step four provides project electrification by converting fossil fuels into efficient electrical technology. 

The result will produce the most excellent decarbonization outcome.


Design for Decarbonization and Resiliency

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The speakers will present design strategies and analysis used on recent projects to reduce carbon and increase resiliency, resulting in an 85% to 95% reduction in natural gas and greenhouse gas emissions to fully electric lab buildings. They will discuss strategies to make labs future-ready to address changing environmental regulations. Specific key issues that will be addressed include battery storage and renewables to manage peak electrical demands, design for grid resiliency, and envelope analysis. The presentation will highlight both public sector and private sector projects and discuss the different risk profiles of each client type.


Driving Decarbonization From Campus Goals to Bricks and Mortar

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When the University of Southern California (USC) President set an aggressive goal of having USC be carbon neutral by 2025, the wheels were set in motion to take immediate action on campus with all existing and future laboratories to alleviate the worst effects of the climate crisis. Hear the steps taken across campus to move the university quickly towards this goal, including establishing a Presidential Working Group (PWG) on Sustainability, writing new Campus Sustainable Design & Construction Guidelines, and hiring needed resources to help promote, monitor, and track the progress.


As one of the premier research universities in the country, USC is committed to developing solutions to climate change and the growing challenge to sustainability impacts from their laboratory facilities. The presentation will highlight how these new USC guidelines, initiatives and mandates helped drive the design for the new $315 million Discovery and Translational Hub (DTH), the largest laboratory to ever be built on their Health Science Campus in Los Angeles. The case study will highlight efforts made to reduce both the embodied carbon within the facility as well as reduce the long-term operational carbon impacts from the facility, and then how those were offset with renewable energy resources. Hear how the design team was able to deliver this all-electric laboratory and all-electric central chilled water/steam plant utilizing the latest technologies and design approaches.


C4: Planning for Decarbonization


Net-Zero Lab Design–Challenges and Results-Oriented Strategies

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Achieving net zero in laboratories is one of the major challenges facing the design community when planning for new scientific spaces, requiring a fundamental shift in our approach to design. This presentation will show a path to net zero that every project can follow. 

This presentation will review opportunities to achieve net zero and address economic challenges. A full understanding of the metrics that drive the design process and a holistic view of the environmental impact of a new building is required.  

A full assessment of carbon emissions of our project includes an examination of the embodied carbon emissions and global warming potential, as well as location factors and transportation emissions caused by the occupants, service providers, and contractors. Also, any new technology requires a fresh look at operating and ongoing commissioning of the facilities, while also examining the continuous improvements needed to engage with the building users.

With reference to the developing I2SL’s Labs2Zero initiative, we will discuss weighing all the considered metrics that are part of this new program. How should we score our progress as a combination of many facets of improving the environmental footprint? Is low carbon energy use more important than embodied carbon? How do Scope 3 emissions relate to the long-term success of truly reducing our environmental impact and creating a healthy, equitable, and sustainable world?


Pennovation Works–Sustainably Growing the University of Pennsylvannia’s Life Science Ecosystem 

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Pennovation project is a 484,000 sf state-of-the-art Class A core and shell laboratory, office and cGMP manufacturing facility that purposefully investigated and integrated sustainable design features to enhance the site’s unique opportunities.  The new facility design utilizes USGBC’s LEED Green Rating System as both a design guide and measure for achievement. This integrated approach entailed investigating the building aesthetics, site selection, material specification, cost, and engineering systems design.


This presentation will feature the detailed analysis concerning the project’s unique access to utilize Philadelphia’s District Steam utility. This analysis entails comparing the utilization of the District Steam heat source to a traditional natural gas boiler system and an all-electric system. In addition, this session will delve into the team’s processes and results directly related to the topics of site selection, biodiversity, embodied carbon (foundations, concrete, and steel), and heat recovery/pre-heat options. The presentation will also include the adaption of flexibility of sustainable utility systems to provide world-class manufacturing and laboratory spaces that can readily accommodate a variety of scientific endeavors.  Finally, the site enhancements to be shown will entail the creation of a pedestrian-oriented environment that leverages the Schuykill River Trail and visually connects the Pennovation Works campus to the University of Pennsylvania’s campus.  


Standardizing Sustainability: Unifying Sustainable Design and Construction Practices Across Gilead Sciences

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Case study review of how Gilead Sciences developed and implemented a Sustainable Design and Construction Standard across their global portfolio. The standard is applicable to all new construction, major renovation, tenant improvement, and ongoing maintenance projects across the full spectrum of building typology including labs and offices. The standard provides performance targets for energy, water, materials, waste, emissions and aligns with company’s overarching sustainability goals.  


The presentation focuses on the business case for why Gilead developed a sustainable design and construction standard. The presenters will share how the standard was developed from a high-level inception to strategy refinements, tool development to final draft, including how stakeholders were engaged in the process. The performance targets and strategies were measured against past performance data and meant to push business-as-usual practices to a higher sustainability performance level in energy, water, waste management, embodied carbon, and material health. The presenters will also share ongoing assessment of the standard against the performance of new all-electric lab building at their Foster City, California, campus currently under design and descibe how to implement a standard to improve lab performance particularly in energy and water consumption while still meeting programmatic needs.


D4: Planning for the Future


Regenerative Future Lab: Options to Get to Zero in the Lab Environment

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As with much of life today, new advances in technologies are rapidly transforming how research is conducted. New methodologies, increased automation, fewer and less hazardous chemicals, and the ability to analyze more and more data all require us to rethink the laboratory environment.

This provides the foundation to re-imagine laboratories to not only better support changing research, but to also become more “human,” and to be better stewards of our planet. To that end, by infusing the research environment with new planning concepts such as risk-based zoning, not only can we make laboratories safer, we are finding that we can also significantly lower energy use.


Decarbonization/Carbon Neutral Energy Storage

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Sustainable design has taken many great leaps over the past 10 years. New technologies and materials over the past few years have to led to opportunities for onsite power generation, energy storage, and  decarbonization. Looking at our current projects we will discuss some of these technologies that can have a significant impact on reducing the operational carbon footprint for different facilities.

A whole building life cycle concept based on integrated design can ensure the use of most optimum high-performance systems/technologies for laboratory projects rather than a siloed approach. We will review some of these concepts, which can have substantial benefit on projects. Our discussion will align with the move to accelerate decarbonization of laboratory infrastructure and how this can be achieved by a high-performance and energy-efficient approach.


The need for intelligent building infrastructure has created opportunities for building controls manufacturers to provide solutions to meet the needs for ongoing commissioning, O&M optimization and other sustainable practices. There remain some data-handling gaps that currently are not clear and ultimately can cause coordination issues past the planning stages. 

Key Considerations for New Builds and Retrofits--A U.K. Perspective

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As a global scientific community, we are faced with the challenges of future working models (blended home and office/lab working), as well as the need to decarbonize. The presentation will cover the following topics:

  • What are the key considerations in the laboratory environment of the future? 

  • How do we address occupier demand, sector growth and new trends in design and flexibility as the market continues to evolve?  

  • How do we overcome the pace of scientific research and the pace of planning and construction (the former often being quicker than the latter)?

  • How will the climate emergency influence our decision making on the future of laboratory space?


The presentation will consider the current socio/economic and environmental context, what occupiers need, and what key issues or challenges might inform their decision making in terms of future lab space. The presentation will also consider the themes of adaptability, location and key servicing considerations. It will also consider both new-build and adaptive reuse.


Information sources will include observations and data gathered from the U.K. science market-developers, occupiers, and institutional clients (universities and private operators). The presentation will be focused predominantly on the U.K. market, however it will identify synergies between the U.K. and U.S. markets.


E4: Labs2Zero


I2SL's Labs2Zero Program

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I2SL has a major new initiative to develop an Energy Scorecard for labs as part of its Labs2Zero program. Over 40 organizations have validated the demand for such a score. I2SL is working with LBNL to develop the technical methodology and pilot it. LBNL will leverage its prior technical work from the Laboratory Benchmarking Tool to help I2SL deploy the score later this year. I2SL officers will also give an update on other aspects of the fast-moving Labs2Zero program.


F4: Embodied Carbon


Decarbonizing the Lab Construction Supply Chain

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As awareness about the impact of carbon emissions grows, companies in every sector and of every size are setting goals to reduce their climate impact. But how are those goals set, how do you track progress, where do you start, and why take on the challenge? This course defines and contextualizes carbon, explains the impact of human activity on the natural carbon cycle, and provides insight into how companies can measure and reduce their climate impact. Then the discussion turns to carbon emissions in the design and construction industry, and why they matter so much in the context of a changing climate. This course offers the building and design community opportunities to reduce carbon emissions and foster healthier human communities at the same time. This presentation closes with tools and resources for participants to learn more and act on the most urgent source of greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment industry, the carbon impact of building materials.


TM65 for North America: An overview of the New Standard for Calculating Embodied Carbon of MEP Systems

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Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems have traditionally been left out of embodied carbon targets and benchmarks—but they have a huge impact on a building's footprint, particularly in lab buildings with their intensive MEP systems and equipment.

In 2021, our firm worked with the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) to develop and publish CIBSE Technical Manual (TM) 65: Embodied carbon in building services: a calculation methodology. Now, in collaboration with ASHRAE, CIBSE is releasing “TM65 for North America” in August 2023, which tailors the calculation methodology to the North American context.

Calculating embodied carbon of buildings, and of MEP systems in particular, generally remains a voluntary procedure; however, industry-leading owners in the science and technology space are beginning to recognize the importance of embodied carbon as part of their overall carbon analysis. Standardizing and developing this calculation procedure is a critical step to better understanding and improving our design decisions as we strive for a decarbonized future.

This presentation provides an overview of the new standard “TM65 for North America” to describe methodology for calculating the embodied carbon of MEP systems, provide a worked example of applying the standard to MEP systems in labs, and identify next steps that will improve the data and industry practices around MEP embodied carbon assessment moving forward.

The Embodied Carbon Conundrum in Lab Buildings


As buildings seek to decarbonize, the industry has advanced significantly in reducing the amount of carbon emitted by the operation of the building throughout its life. As this operational carbon is driven down by increasing efficiency, electrification, and renewable sources of energy, greater attention is being paid to the carbon emissions inherent in the extraction, production and transportation of the building materials, commonly referred to as the embodied carbon. There is growing familiarity with strategies to reduce the embodied carbon, but in laboratory buildings these strategies are not always applicable due to increased durability or strict vibration requirements, resulting in the embodied carbon conundrum in lab buildings. 

Through an exploration of case studies and practical examples, the session will reveal how to conduct an early stage embodied carbon assessment and explore how to reduce embodied carbon in lab buildings while still achieving some of the unique requirements of this typology. 


G4: Electrification


Challenges and Considerations for Fossil Fuel-Free Backup Power in Research Facilities

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The push for decarbonization and beneficial electrification often leads to looking beyond space heating, DHW, and process loads to the backup power needs of research facilities and campuses. There is increased interest in understanding the implications of large battery systems, fuel cells, hydrogen generation and storage, hydrogen as a combustion fuel, and other biofuel options. Understanding how any or all of these can work together as part of a microgrid to allow for islanding from the grid and/or how they can support grid harmonization are important in assessing the value and challenge to implement. Also key are the space requirements, code, and cost ramifications, with lifecycle carbon likely to become a consideration as well. This presentation will provide a breakdown of the various system options, with design and operational challenges described. Microgrid system capabilities will be discussed. Various code considerations, particularly for emergency power, life safety, and optional standby power will be highlighted. Resilience considerations will be discussed. Examples from building and campus scale projects will be shared.


Optimizing Operational Settings and Integrating Energy Recovery to Improve Performance Efficiency of Heat Pump Selection


The conversion of fossil fuel-sourced steam to an electric heat pump system can have the consequence of increasing demand on electric generation plants and distribution systems. This presentation will illustrate how design can diminish the demand using standard heat pump equipment selection while including either energy recovery or optimized operational settings to curtail the otherwise typical excessive energy demand from heat pump supplemental energy needs. For this presentation, a laboratory building that will be retrofitted from district steam to heat pump, for benefit of occupant comfort and health and laboratory security, will be discussed.


H4: Planning for Decarbonization


Campus Decarbonization Strategies--Build Less, Build Light, Build Smart


Institutions across the United States are increasingly recognizing the importance of factoring embodied carbon into major campus planning decisions. Whole Life Carbon (WLC) analysis is now practically de facto as campuses seek to reduce WLC in new and existing buildings through a series of data-driven decisions about material sourcing, construction type, and lifecycle. Lab buildings, in particular, offer their own challenges to decarbonization. 


This session will outline global best practices in optimizing lab buildings through strategic programming, planning, and procurement strategies that have achieved tangible results of sustainable value. It will focus on Hawkins\Brown’s science and technology work in the U.K. and Europe to compare case studies of retrofit versus new build benchmarks through the lens of a build less (campus optimization efforts to reorganize, share facilities and introduce appropriate space allowances), build light (optimize the structural design such as extending column grids to reduce lab thickness), and build smart approach (sensibly balance future flexibilities to reduce over-specifying the performance criteria of labs). Case studies will include the U.K. Medical Research Council’s collection of buildings and the Science Campus at University College Dublin, where Hawkins/Brown conducted a space utilization of existing facilities for seven science departments across the campus, which allows for a 35% increase in population while limiting the amount of new construction.


Decarbonizing University Campuses and Laboratories 


Decarbonizing labs requires coordinated action at the campus, building, and lab level—through integrated planning across these scales, reaching carbon neutrality is possible and even cost-effective. Introba and Johns Hopkins University, one of the world’s leading research universities, partnered on a feasibility study for decarbonizing all university facilities. Two major, interconnected components of the study involved a high-level roadmap of district energy systems and building heating, and the development of potential requirements for high-performance and healthy buildings.


The feasibility study examined a range of technical solutions at the campus level, including heat recovery, air source heat pumps, and geo-exchange systems to electrify all major heating and service hot water system. The solutions were grouped into five technical pathways at varying levels of complexity and cost. The presentation will explore the most effective  solutions for decarbonization and the factors that impacted cost-effectiveness. 

With thousands of laboratories at JHU, lab buildings represent one of the most energy intensive building types across JHU campuses.  A set of potential requirements and best practice guidelines for new laboratory mechanical systems was created to ensure all lab projects are planned and designed to the highest energy performance while being pragmatic and reasonable. 

GHG Inventory: A How-to Guide for Laboratories

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity.” The built environment accounts for around 40% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Translation--as building planners/designers/owners, we have both a responsibility and opportunity to both mitigate the impact of existing buildings and ensure new construction is carbon neutral. And, we know laboratory buildings are particularly challenging to decarbonize, given specific ventilation and exhaust, heating/cooling requirements, water usage, etc. How do we do it? 

The first step is to measure carbon footprint by completing a GHG inventory. This session will step through the measuring process, using real, timely examples from various healthcare and health sciences projects.  

A good inventory illustrates the information an organization needs to benchmark its impact, make an educated commitment, set achievable goals, and prioritize reduction efforts for greatest impact. 

Informed by the globally accepted GHG Protocol as a foundation, this session will address an overview of a lab-specific process, identifying the data to collect, how to most accurately and efficiently collect it (both the first time and annually thereafter). We will address the different tiers of “eligible” data, depending on what is available, i.e., fleet vehicle miles vs gallons of fuel purchased or supply chain items purchased vs overall spending cost. 


I4: Heat Recovery for Decarbonization


Discover the Hidden Energy Goldmine in Laboratory Buildings: Utilizing Reject Heating Loads

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Improving energy efficiency and decarbonizing laboratory buildings are top priorities for building operators and engineers. This 90-minute session includes three presentations that focus on utilizing reject heating loads, data center heat reuse, and heat recovery chillers to achieve these goals. 

The first presentation examines how reject heating loads, such as those generated from a large process load in a laboratory building, can be utilized to optimize building performance without sacrificing simplicity. Through case studies and analysis, attendees will learn about the benefits of capturing process heating energy with simple hydronic system designs.

The second presentation explores the potential for integrating data centers and laboratories to reduce energy use. By reusing the waste heat generated by data centers to heat laboratories and other buildings on a campus, significant reductions in energy use can be achieved. This presentation also highlights the importance of water use reduction in this process.


The third presentation focuses on heat recovery chillers as an important component of decarbonizing laboratory buildings. Attendees will gain an understanding of the benefits and challenges of heat recovery chiller technology, and how proper design and operation can improve building performance and energy modeling. Case studies will demonstrate successful integration of heat recovery chillers in laboratory buildings and the resulting energy savings.

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