Laboratories : Facilities : High-Performance Buildings – Sustainability

Laboratory facilities represent an ever-expanding growth opportunity for advanced, environmentally preferred, building technologies. The typical laboratory uses far more energy and water per square foot than the typical office building due to intensive ventilation requirements and other health and safety concerns. Because the requirements of laboratory facilities differ so dramatically from those of other buildings, a clear need exists for an initiative exclusively targeting these facilities.

Key Areas of Research:

1. Characterize baseline energy use and savings potentials

Develop scenarios of energy savings potential in California high-tech industries

2. Benchmark laboratories and develop best practices

Perform detailed benchmarking of actual laboratories

Compile quantitative results in Labs21 laboratory benchmarking tool

Record best practices in the Laboratory Design Guide and elsewhere

Promulgate best practices through the EPA-DOE Labs21 program

3. Develop high-performance fume hoods

Develop high-performance laboratory fume hood website and summary article

Develop technical and testing plan to overcome institutional barriers and obtain a variance from CAL/OSHA

Conduct side-by-side tests with conventional hoods

Perform industrial field demonstrations

4. Showcase best practices at LBNL’s own facilities

LBNL’s in-house energy managers have worked with LBNL researchers for several decades on improving energy efficiency in our own high-tech facilities

Implement best practices in LBNL’s Molecular Foundry, a $65-million, 6-story building housing labs, a cleanroom, and a data center – received LEED Gold Rating

Benchmarking: Laboratories

Laboratory owners and operators rarely know how their building operating costs compare to similar facilities. Benchmarks provide this measure of performance, helping personnel to identify potential cost-saving opportunities. However, laboratories are difficult to assess because many have unique characteristics. TheLaboratory Energy Benchmarking Tool allows laboratory owners to compare the performance of their laboratory facilities to similar facilities and thereby help identify potential energy cost savings opportunities.

This self-benchmarking guide lists metrics and benchmarks for laboratories.


  1. Rumsey Engineers. 2004. “Site K Benchmarking Report” (Southern California Laboratory) (August)
  2. P. Mathew, D. Sartor, O. van Geet, and S. Reilly. 2004. “Rating Laboratories: Results from the Labs21 Program,” Proceedings of the 2004 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Asilomar, CA.


Laboratory owners and operators rarely know how their building operating costs compare to similar facilities. Energy Benchmarking allows laboratory owners to compare the performance of their laboratory facilities to similar facilities and thereby help identify potential energy cost savings opportunities.

The Labs21 Energy Benchmarking ToolExit is a Web-based database tool that contains energy use information from more than 200 laboratory facilities. It allows users to benchmark energy performance in terms of whole-building metrics (e.g., BTU/sf-yr) as well as system-level metrics (e.g., ventilation W/cfm).

For more information on the benchmarking tool and its principles, see this conference paper: Rating Energy Efficiency and Sustainability in Laboratories (Adobe PDF. Click for more information. 13 pp., 372 KB, about PDF).

For more information, contact:

Paul Mathew
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Phone: 510 486-5116
Fax: 510 486-4089

Design Guide for Energy-Efficient Research Laboratories – Version 4.0- is intended to assist facility owners, architects, engineers, designers, facility managers, and utility demand-side management specialists in identifying and applying advanced energy-efficiency features in laboratory-type environments.

This Guide focuses comprehensively on laboratory energy design issues with a “systems” design approach. Although a laboratory-type facility includes many sub-system designs, e.g., the heating system, we believe that a comprehensive design approach should view the entire building as the essential “system.” This means the larger, macro energy-efficiency considerations during architectural programming come before the smaller, micro component selection such as an energy-efficient fan.

We encourage readers to consider the following points when utilizing the Guide:

  • Since the Guide’s design recommendations focus upon energy efficiency, it is best used in conjunction with other design resources, manuals, handbooks, and guides. This Guide is not meant to supplant these resources but rather to augment them by facilitating the integration of energy-efficiency considerations into the overall design process.
  • Though the Guide may seem to push the envelope of traditional engineering design practice, its recommendations are widely used in actual installations in the United States and abroad. We believe that successful design teams build from the members’ combined experience and feedback from previous work. Each team should incorporate energy efficiency improvements, as appropriate, by considering their interactions and life-cycle costs. We also recognize that there is no single design solution for all situations; thus, the Guide focuses on conceptual approaches rather than prescriptive measures.
  • We have performed an extensive literature search and present brief excerpts from many excellent publications. We encourage readers to obtain the full citation of interesting and pertinent documents.

The Molecular Foundry


  • Winner of LEED Gold Rating!
  • First-place winner of the Sustainable Industry Buildings Council “Beyond Green 2007 High Performance Building Award”
  • The American Institute of Architects, San Francisco chapter, 2008 AIA San Francisco Design Awards program. The Smith Group was a merit winner in the “Energy + Sustainability” category for their design of Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry.

The Molecular Foundry: 94,500 square feet, six stories, $67 million construction cost. Note native redwood trees in foreground.

  • Sustainability: Candidate for LEED Silver rating
  • Energy: 35% reduced demand compared to ASHRAE 90.1 standards; 92% of electricity provided by renewable power purchases.
  • Emissions Reductions – NOx: 1,434 pounds/year, SOx: 1,153 pounds/year, CO2: 2,256,674 pounds/year
  • Non-energy benefits: improved indoor environment, enhanced safety

The Molecular Foundry is a state-of-the-art 6-story, 94,500 square-foot, $67 million (plus $18 million for research equipment) User Facility for Nanoscale Materials, dedicated to supporting research in nanoscience by researchers from institutions around the world. The facility—completed in early 2006—supports users in nanolithography, organic nanostructures, inorganic nanostructures, biological nanostructures, the theory and simulation of nanostructures, and the imaging and manipulation of nanostructures.  Users from academia, government and industrial laboratories with funded projects may write proposals requesting free access to the state-of-the-art instruments or techniques housed in the Foundry or to the highly skilled staff. From an energy- and water-management standpoint, this is a remarkable project in that it embodies best practices in the three major “high-tech” facility types, specifically wet and dry laboratories, a cleanroom, and a data center.  Each of these spaces is highly resource-intensive and poses greater sustainability challenges than ordinary spaces, and it is rare to find all three facility types under one roof. This project is the most comprehensive “Green” buildingconstructed in LBNL’s site’s 75-year history, and the first to achieve a U.S. Green Building Council “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) certification (Gold). The facility has among the lowest electricity intensities of 56 projects currently included in the Labs21 benchmarking database. The facility produces 85% fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than a conventional facility meeting the ASHRAE 90.1 energy standards. Thanks to right-sizing of the mechanical systems, all of this was achieved at no net cost compared to typical practice.

Download the Poster and see our outreach efforts.

Popular article summary.

Labs21 overview of LEED features

via Laboratories : Facilities : High-Performance Buildings for High-Tech Industries.

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