Laboratories are very energy intensive spaces because of high ventilation standards and other health and safety requirements. Consequently, the average lab space likely uses more energy per square foot than most other areas of a typical hospital. However, unlike acute care hospitals or medical office buildings, labs cannot receive an energy performance rating through EPA’s energy management tool, Portfolio Manager. To date, EPA has been unable to develop an energy performance rating for labs because of insufficient national data on laboratory energy use, but that is changing.
As a result of suggestions made by ENERGY STAR® partners, EPA has launched a new joint initiative between ENERGY STAR and Laboratories for the 21st Century (Labs21) to encourage hospitals and others with labs to benchmark the energy performance of their laboratories. If successful, the initiative will establish a national energy performance rating for labs and provide an opportunity to earn the ENERGY STAR.
Labs21, which is sponsored by EPA and DOE, is a voluntary program that helps improve the energy and environmental performance of laboratories. While Labs21 does not provide recognition for superior laboratory energy performance, it does offer a number of technical resources, including an online energy and environmental benchmarking tool. This tool allows users to make comparisons between facilities in the database using a variety of filtering criteria. However, comparisons are limited to the small number of facilities currently in the database. The tool also does not provide a 1 to 100 rating or automatically normalize for differences between lab types, weather, or size. These capabilities are both provided by the Portfolio Manager energy performance rating tool.
By working together, EPA believes that both ENERGY STAR and Labs21 will benefit. Labs21 hopes to increase the number of facilities within the database and the ENERGY STAR program hopes to use this data to develop an energy performance rating. Participation by ASHE members is essential to this initiative’s success. If you would like to see a rating for laboratories established, then benchmark your labs using the on-line Labs21 benchmarking tool at http://labs21.lbl.gov/
Sub Metering is Critical
Despite being one of the most energy intensive spaces within a hospital, labs are rarely sub metered and monitored at the level desirable for benchmarking. In the past, it may not have made economic sense to sub meter these spaces, but with sky rocketing energy costs who can afford not to address this blind spot now? For the cost of a sub meter and the labor to install it, facility managers can measure the energy intensity of their labs and track progress from their baseline as they begin to make energy improvements. Those who install sub meters in 2009 can begin inputting their data into the Labs21 tool after collecting twelve months of actual performance data, which may expand this initiative into the year 2010.
Labs21 Benchmarking Tool
Labs21 developed a web-based tool like Portfolio Manager to collect, analyze and display benchmarking data. A user ID and password is required to input and edit laboratory characteristics and energy use data. The data remains anonymous to other users of the database. Although estimated data may be provided, actual measured data is required for the purposes of creating an ENERGY STAR rating.
After the user specifies system level metrics of interest – such as whole building, ventilation, heating, cooling, lighting, and process equipment – the tool can filter the data set by lab-area ratio, laboratory-type, size, occupancy hours, and climate zone. Most hospitals participating in this benchmarking effort will probably classify their labs as “biological” because most perform work in pathology, microbiology, biochemistry, and hematology. The tool then presents the analysis in graphical and tabular format, as shown in Figure 1.
Currently the tool does not normalize for differences between labs. Normalization is typically done with either a regression-based approach or simulation model-based approach. Regression-based approaches work best when there is a large representative dataset, but none exist yet for labs. The objective of this initiative is to collect a large representative dataset so that statistical analysis can be conducted in order to create normalization factors necessary for developing a rating. An ENERGY STAR rating, if created by EPA, would show a 1 to 100 score that would indicate how well the facility was performing compared to the national building stock of laboratories and normalize for size, type, weather, or other important factors. Participating hospitals would not need to share their data directly with EPA. ENERGY STAR will obtain anonymous data from Labs21.
Efficient Labs Save Millions
Helping to create a national rating for labs will enable facility managers to effectively focus on one of the most energy intensive spaces within a hospital. Labs21 believes the saving opportunities for labs are 30% to 50%, which is a good deal higher than other commercial spaces. How much would that be in cost savings at your hospital? Nationally, the numbers look equally impressive. EPA calculates that if half of the nation's private and public research laboratories achieve energy efficiency improvements of 30 percent, then the United States could reduce annual electricity consumption by 84 trillion BTUs, equal to the electricity consumed by 2.2 million U.S. households. This improvement would save $1.2 billion in utility costs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 16.7 million tons.
EPA will be holding free webinars to provide updates on the laboratory initiative and trainings on how to use the Labs21 tool beginning in October. For more information, contact Walt Tunnessen at Tunnessen.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clark Reed is the Director of the Healthcare Facilities Division for ENERGY STAR at the U.S. EPA. In 2007, ENERGY STAR helped Americans save enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 27 million cars -- all while saving consumers $16 billion. To join, visit ENERGY STAR’s website or contact the author at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - MC 6202J, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20460. Email: email@example.com Phone: 202-343-9146.
Figure 1. Labs21 Data Output Screen