2016 I2SL Conference Impressions

Last week, Joe Gibbons and I participated in and thoroughly enjoyed the 2016 International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (i2sl.org) Conference.  Kansas City is a great conference venue, especially if you like BBQ (Joe and I certainly do!).  We learned a lot about large, complex, and progressive labs from all over the US and across the world.  Wilson Architects gave three presentations on Energy Benchmarking, Sustainable Lab Design, and Helium Recycling.

The I2SL New England Chapter had a strong presence at the conference, learning a lot, sharing a few great presentations, and even receiving some honors in the “Go Beyond Awards” program (formal announcements will go out shortly).  The Chapter is really looking forward to hosting the I2SL 2017 Conference in Boston!

Major themes at the 2016 conference included Energy Efficiency, User Engagement, and Continuous Improvement.  The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) announced a new Better Buildings Challenge program called the Smart Labs Accelerator, in which partners pledge to reduce energy use in their labs by at least 20% over the next 10 years and to implement no- and low-cost savings measures at one laboratory to achieve a near-term target of at least 5% prior to the end of the 3-year Accelerator period.  The Smart Labs program builds on the work of the University of California Irvine’s Smart Labs program and similar programs at other institutions.  The I2SL supports the initiative.

The conference highlighted many great grass roots efforts, including the “North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge”.   Allison Paradise of MyGreenLab.org gave an excellent series of presentations on a variety of lab sustainability issues, including “plug load” energy, water efficiency, and sustainable lab operations.  Pam Greenly of MIT gave an excellent presentation on MIT’s Green Labs program.  There was a lot of interesting discussion about the upcoming Energy Star ratings for laboratory freezers.

Many sessions focused on the importance of lab operations to lab sustainability.  Allen Doyle demonstrated the excellent Laboratory Continuous Performance Improvement Program (LCPIP) tool, developed by the I2SL LCPIP working group.  In addition to several other presentations, Exposure Control Technologies (ECT) presented a half day workshop on their Laboratory Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Training Program.  There was a general consensus that Measurement and Verification combined with continuous improvement is key to long term sustainability.

We are excited about the possibility of Zero Energy / Net Zero laboratories on the horizon.  Several sessions mentioned that new building projects have increasingly ambitious sustainability goals.  Many sessions focused on strategies for dramatic reductions in lab energy.  One of the “Go Beyond” awards went to the Bristol Community College John J Sprega Health and Science Building – arguably the first high-intensity “Net Zero” laboratory project in North America. It’s also great work by a former WA colleague!  And beyond just energy efficiency, one session highlighted several ongoing Living Building Challenge “seeking” lab projects in the design stage, including the Georgia Tech Living Building project.

It’s an exciting time to be designing labs!

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