Maker Spaces / Innovation Labs: “Top Five” Energy Efficiency Strategies by Building Type

“Maker Spaces” and “Innovation Labs” are a broad group of flexible research and learning environments, from “office” type spaces containing only light computing, to machine shops, to highly flexible open research labs.  Energy use is generally driven by equipment or process needs, environmental controls, and or provisions for future flexibility.

The most effective EEMs for Maker Spaces / Innovation labs are those that target decoupling heating / cooling from ventilation.  Also effective is systematic attention to the specific equipment or processes planned for the space.  Equipment with high heat generation, open chemical usage, or need for mechanical exhaust can drive the needs of the entire space.  EEMs that target the building envelope, such as increased airtightness, increased building insulation, reduced glazing, triple glazing, or reduced thermal bridging vary in importance with the sensitivity of the lab environment and individual processes, but are generally of less importance than other EEMs.  EEMs that target lighting efficiency are also highly effective.

Our “TOP FIVE” EEMs for Maker Spaces / Innovation Labs are:

  1. Optimize building program distribution
    • Site and space planning for energy efficiency
    • Locate high-intensity labs either in basements, or internal to the building, without windows
  2. Separate heating / cooling delivery from fresh air delivery
    • Strategies include: radiant slabs, radiant panels, within-lab fan coils, chilled beams, fan filter units, humidification / dehumidification equipment, and/or specialized “packaged air handling units”
  3. Demand control ventilation
    • Via CO2 sensor, particulate sensor, humidistat, thermostat, O2 depletion monitor, etc.
    • Unoccupied mode during off hours
  4. Optimize mechanical equipment
    • Use central plant resources if available
    • High Efficiency boilers, chillers, cooling towers, etc.
    • 100% Outside Air Ventilation System: industrial spaces, shops, laboratories, etc. containing hazardous chemicals and/or environmental pollutants must be designed with “once through” air, i.e. HVAC systems that do not return / recirculate air within the building. This reduces the chance that air contaminated by processes (or accidents) in one room might be blown back into another room, exposing the occupants to health risks.  This HVAC design requirement dramatically increases the energy use of these space types.
    • Enthalpy Wheel AHU
    • Airside Economizer
  5. Optimize building envelope
    • <40% glazing,
    • High R-value walls and roofs
    • Avoid thermal bridging and maximize air tightness
  6. High efficiency lighting
    • High efficiency fluorescent lighting
    • Vacancy Sensing
    • Low Ambient / Targeted Task lighting



  1. 100% continuous insulation at exterior walls (SIPS)
  2. Natural ventilation in non-critical areas
  3. Triple Glazing
  4. Sunshades
  5. Geothermal Heat Pump
  6. LED Lighting

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