Sustainable Labs

Sustainable Labs

By: Tony White Harvard University recently completed a two-year renovation of its Sherman Fairchild Building.  The renovation received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Commercial Interiors Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).  The project tied with a project in Hong Kong for the highest number of LEED-CI points achieved by any project in the world. The tie for highest achieved points in and of itself is an achievement deserving recognition.  The fact the Sherman Fairchild Building is a laboratory building makes it all the more remarkable. Laboratory buildings are notorious for being energy hogs and research labs are resource intensive. So how did Harvard accomplish this feat? Harvard developed their Green Building Standards in 2009 and The Sherman Fairchild Building is the first project to utilize the standards. Harvard’s Green Building Standards help guide projects in the areas of Integrated Design, Life Cycle Costing, Energy Modeling, Meter/Sub-metering, LEED Certification & Harvard Specific Credits, and Closeout Documentation & O&M Readiness.  The Standard provides guidelines for minimal levels for different types of projects from new buildings all the way down to limited scope projects. Some of the specifics to achieve their certification for this project:

  • Internal heat shift chiller to capture heat to redeploy heat to other parts of the building
  • Reduced overhead lighting, LED task lighting at benches, occupancy sensors to control air and lighting
  • Extensive use of active chilled beams and reduced air changes during unoccupied periods
  • Recapture grey water for toilet flushing and low-flow fixtures to reduce water use by 42% below code maximums
  • Sub-metering by floor and comprehensive measurement/verification plan
  • High performance fume hoods installed in the labs include occupancy sensors to shut the sash when not being used, fume hood layout is limited so the exhaust doesn’t exceed minimum ventilation 1 cfm/sf
  • Lower air change rates during unoccupied hours
  • Solar exposure is controlled by separate control zones, thermostats and lighting tie into sensors that monitor occupancy
  • 90% of occupied spaces have access to daylight and views

Now that the residents have a LEED certified building to work in they are trying to work more sustainably in that building also. The Lab-Oriented Environment Competition  pits floors against one another to see which one will create the most sustainable habits.  Criteria in the competition includes: proper recycling procedures, ensuring freezers have minimal ice build on shelves and gaskets, keeping fume hoods closed, turning off lighting and bench-top appliance when not in use.  The winners are recognized at the Harvard’s Green Carpet Awards. The plastics-to-glass lab supplies program is designed to change usage habits.  Changing from plastic to glass saved the Biology Department $9500 in the first seven months.  Even better it saved 2600 plastic bottles from entering the landfill. The Freezer Maintenance Program focuses attention on the freezers found in labs to achieve energy savings.  Not only are the freezers maintained on a more regular basis, but samples are inventoried and purged on a more timely basis. Harvard has decided to take the lead in developing projects with sustainability in mind.  The Sherman Fairchild Building achieved its LEED Platinum certification at the same time as another project was registered as  Harvard’s 100th LEED green building project.  Is it a sign of things to come that this project is also a laboratory?

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