Steve Zylius / University Communications Campus engineers developing the Smart Labs technology worked under “a binding requirement that these energy savings could not be achieved at the expense of safety,” notes Wendell Brase, vice chancellor for administrative & business services. Download image

UCI wins international award for energy-efficient laboratory program

Campus’s Smart Labs Initiative has cut consumption in half

Irvine, Calif., June 19, 2013 – UC Irvine’s energy efficiency program received worldwide recognition today at the S-Lab Conference in Liverpool, England. The award for international laboratory operations went to the campus’s Smart Labs Initiative, which has slashed energy consumption by at least 50 percent.

“We feel strongly that this approach to energy savings is a game changer for research universities around the globe and any other organization that operates research laboratories,” said Wendell Brase, UC Irvine’s vice chancellor of administrative & business services, who accepted the award along with Matt Gudorf, campus energy manager. “And we’re enthusiastic about sharing what we’ve learned. It just makes good economic and environmental sense.”

The Smart Labs Initiative grew out of UC Irvine’s commitment to making a sizable reduction in its carbon footprint to meet the University of California’s goal of curbing greenhouse gas emissions systemwide. The energy management program employs variable ventilation rates and digital controls that are integrated with advanced air quality and occupancy sensors.

Laboratory buildings use 100 percent outside air for ventilation, and an enormous amount of energy is required to supply, heat, cool, humidify, dehumidify, filter, distribute and exhaust this air. Prior to the introduction of Smart Labs, treated air was released into the atmosphere every five to eight minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether a laboratory was fully occupied or vacant.

With Smart Labs technologies, this frequency can be reduced to two times an hour in unoccupied laboratories or four times an hour in occupied laboratories – and can be increased in response to real-time air quality measurements.

UC Irvine has retrofitted 10 laboratories with Smart Labs features and incorporated them into a new facility completed in 2010, Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute – now acknowledged as having some of the most energy-efficient laboratories in the country.

Another deciding factor in the award was the multidisciplinary nature of the leadership behind  the project.

“This is collective effort that draws on the expertise of campus engineers, faculty researchers and others –  all equally committed to energy efficiency and lab safety,” said Gudorf, who was recently honored as 2012 Energy Engineer of the Year by the Southern California chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers.

The S-Lab Conference brings together key international players in laboratory design, operation and management and highlights best practices. It’s organized by the Safe, Successful, Sustainable Laboratories initiative.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,400 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.3 billion. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu.

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