The science labs in UCI’s Natural Sciences II building were retrofitted in 2011 with the goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 50 percent.

Engineers focused on how the building “breathes.” The entire internal air volume of a typical lab building is discharged into the atmosphere through high-velocity exhaust stacks every six to 10 minutes. An enormous amount of energy goes into supplying, heating or cooling, humidifying or dehumidifying, filtering, distributing and expelling the air, depending on a lab’s needs.

In new and retrofitted labs, airflow systems are integrated with sophisticated occupancy and air-quality sensors to tailor the air-exchange-per-hour rate to lab usage. When the facility is empty, for example, the rate is half what it would normally be.

Besides generating energy savings of as much as 50 percent, these Smart Labs supply staff with constant air-quality data, giving them valuable information about the safety of the building.

Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge aims at making commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020 and accelerating private-sector investment in energy efficiency. UCI is on track to show a 20 percent decrease in electrical usage from 2010 to 2012 and expects to achieve 40 percent savings on the main campus by 2020 – twice the President’s objective. The university was among the first to commit to the Better Buildings Challenge when the program was expanded to include the public sector.


UC Irvine will highlight its sophisticated Smart Labs, a centerpiece of its participation in President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge, for visitors from the U.S. Department of Energy, including David Danielson, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Natural Sciences II (grid G6, building 402 on campus map)

02:00 p.m.

2:10 p.m.: Introductory remarks

2:25 p.m.: Building tour, including mechanical room, lab tour and rooftop. Many photo opportunities.

2:50 p.m.: Media availability with participants.