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While this month's cover story addresses the Lab of the Future (pages 1, 8-11), one issue I didn't cover in depth by specifically calling it out was sustainability. Sustainability has become such an all-encompassing issue that it's becoming difficult to talk about anything associated with new lab designs, instrumentation, equipment and overall lab operations without including sustainability. So even though sustainability was only noted by 12% of the survey respondents as a short-term challenge for researchers as noted in the exclusive survey chart on page 8 of this issue, the fact that costs was the number one challenge implies that sustainability will have to be addressed in this context.

A recent report issued by the Dept. of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL), Re-assessing Green Building Performance, notes that sustainably designed federal buildings cost 19% less to maintain. They use 25% less energy, 11% less water, emit 34% less carbon dioxide and have 27% more satisfied occupants than buildings that were not sustainably designed. Those are big numbers and, in today's very economically focused environment, have a significant impact on the operating budgets of facility managers. It should also be noted that the 22 'green' federal buildings surveyed in the PNNL report did not include research labs, which are categorically classified as huge energy-inefficient facilities, especially those with a significant number of traditionally designed, installed and operated fume hoods. Lab managers can no longer afford to ignore the effects of sustainable designs and operation. It's no longer just good for the environment; it also has direct impacts on your financial^ and, as noted in the chart on page 8 of this issue, the costs.

Of course, the extra costs involved in implementing sustainable facilities cannot be ignored. But those costs are, in general, becoming more acceptable, especially as more facilities implement sustainable designs and fewer non-sustainable choices are available. There are more contractors, equipment suppliers, and sustainable products now available than there were several years ago when sustainable designs were mostly limited to high-cost custom concepts. There are obvious trade-offs that can and should be made and implementing acomplete sustainable design is often financially unacceptable. Financing construetion of the Sustainable Laboratory Facility at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in La Jolla, Calif., supposedly was one of the issues that delayed its construction for several years--groundbreaking finally occurred in September 2011 for "California's first true sustainable laboratory facility."

Features of the JCVI's net-zero energy biological research labs include natural day lighting and views, natural ventilation/ passive cooling, rainwater harvesting, native low-water landscaping, use of regional materials, green roofs, recycled content, and sustainably harvested wood. It also has roof gardens featuring flowering trees, shrubs, grasses, and succulents that are installed on three terraces to help shade and cool the building. JCVI is expected to generate 100% of its power on-site from roof-mounted solar cells. The relatively modest in size 45,000-[ft.sup2] facility is expected to become a showcase for sustainable design. Its features will undoubtedly be used to attract about 125 of the best life science researchers available to work there in the highlycompetitive La Jolla life science work environment. The building is now expected to becompleted in 2013.

But, while JCVI is a great design accomplishment, I doubt that a cost-to-build-and-operate analysis would reveal a very attractive return-on-investment (ROI). The payback in reduced operating expenses versus the initial cost to build and install would likely be unacceptable in most other situations.

It also should be noted that the ROI on the costs for implementing sustainable designs in the 22 PNNL buildings surveyed was also not revealed. The fact that many new or renovated federal buildings are now required by law to have some aspect of sustainable design has an impact on that. Conventional lab facilities that are not of the JCVI showcase variety will likely be bound to a more restrictive cost accounting procedure and guidelines.


Tim Studt Editor in Chief
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Title Annotation:EDITOR'S NOTE
Author:Studt, Tim
Publication:Laboratory Equipment
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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