By Jessica Roche, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council

by Jessica Roche, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council

Cambridge has joined Boston in enacting a building energy disclosure ordinance, under which owners of buildings more than 50,000 square feet will be required to report their energy use beginning in May 2015. 

Life sciences spaces have higher necessary energy use than typical residential or office buildings as they must accommodate complex air ventilation and water flow systems as well as meet stringent safety requirements. But lab developers and users have long worked
toward greater energy efficiency and impressive developments in lab design and operations have made new lab spaces in Massachusetts showcase projects for replication throughout the world. 

The Center for Life Science (above), an 18-floor research building in Boston, utilizes energy sub-metering that allows users to closely monitor use. It was no small effort; it required substantial investment in new systems, consensus protocols among users, and intensive data mapping. 

“With more transparency and accountability, tenants are dialing down on their equipment usage,” said Peter Damiano, Sr. Facility Manager of BioMed Realty Trust, the company that owns the Center for Life Science. The system has changed operating conventions,
reduced energy consumption, and become a roadmap for BioMed in improving efficiencies within its global building portfolio.

At MIT’s Koch Institute building in Cambridge that was completed in 2011, cutting-edge efficiency design was at the forefront. The building is oriented east to west to maximize heat and light from the sun. Light-shelves bounce sunlight to the ceiling, bringing ambient light deep into the building to reduce dependence on electric lighting. Its ventilation system uses a “cascading design” by which office cooling air is reused in lab hoods, air flow rates are at a reduced 80 feet per minute, and labs are aligned to reduce duct work. Electrical systems were “right-sized,” not overbuilt. 

The results are striking. Anticipated 14.6 watts per square foot usage are at 3.8 watts instead. Steam heat that was projected at 35,000 pounds per hour for the coldest days is at 20,000 pounds. The building reduces total energy use by more than 30 percent as
compared to a standard laboratory facility. Walt Henry, MIT’s Director of Engineering at the time, explained in an MIT News article, “To get a building that performs well requires only that you make intelligent choices.”

Intelligent choices like those made by Biogen Idec, which has already surpassed its goal of reducing its overall environmental footprint to 15 percent by 2015 even as it adds in facility square footage. Biogen Idec’s greenhouse gas intensity goal is to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 80 percent by 2020. Its two new Cambridge buildings achieved LEED Gold and Platinum certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council. Biogen Idec’s
campus is powered by its cogeneration plant, which produces 75 percent of the campus’ electricity and 100 percent of its steam. Cogeneration has helped lower emissions by more than 150,000 metric tons of CO2e on the campus since 2006. 

These examples of recent lab developments provide models in energy efficiency that set the standard and point the way for energy sustainability.

[This article originally appeared in the summer edition of MassBio News]

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