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A two-part initiative beginning this spring will examine laboratory activities in the Lazare Research Building with the goal of reducing energy costs by as much as 10 to 20 percent annually.
The first step will be a laboratory safety and energy reduction audit to determine how much energy the building consumes, and to identify strategies to improve efficiency and reduce energy use. A second assessment will implement a tracking software system to closely monitor the LRB’s energy consumption. The system will measure the impact as the audit findings are put into action, and then on a monthly basis thereafter, to document any savings that are realized.
“We’ll have a computerized system that will give us a matrix scorecard on the entire building, showing where we need to focus our attention next to save more energy,” explained Brian McCarthy, the Medical School’s assistant director of maintenance, who is coordinating the project.
Scheduled to begin in early April and to be completed by June, the initiative is a pilot collaboration between UMMS and National Grid, the campus’ external electricity provider. The safety and energy audit will be performed by Exposure Control Technologies, Inc. (ECTI), a leading authority on laboratory ventilation based in North Carolina. Interval Data Systems of Waltham, Mass. will conduct the corresponding energy savings assessment.
Because laboratory ventilation systems often account for more than 60 percent of a research facility’s utility costs, the LRB’s exhaust hoods are a major focus of the audit. According to McCarthy, the LRB uses “100 percent outside air” for its ventilation system, which means fresh air is brought in, used once, and then vented. “Every time air comes into the building, it has to be filtered, heated, cooled, and de-humidified. It’s a multi-step operation that consumes lots of energy,” he said.
Not all of the approximately 112 fume hoods in the LRB are actually used for exhaust all the time, yet they are typically left open and running 24-hours-a-day, according to Melissa Lucas, sustainability and energy manager at UMMS. “ECTI will interview researchers to find out what their needs are for fume hoods and other pieces of equipment,” explained Lucas. “They’ll come up with recommendations on what can be improved to make the system more efficient.”
A proper ventilation system is crucial for laboratory safety, yet exhaust hoods can be modified to make them more efficient, while maintaining a high level of safety at all times. For example, “controls can be installed, so that if no one is working in front of the hoods, the air flow through them can be reduced,” McCarthy said.
LRB personnel with questions about the laboratory energy and safety audit should contact their department administrator or Melissa Lucas at 508-856-6324 or Melissa.Lucas@umassmed.edu.