Irvine, Calif., Dec. 10, 2013 – UC Irvine’s Smart Labs program has earned California’s highest environmental honor, the Governor’s Environmental & Economic Leadership Award.

Announced Tuesday in Sacramento, the award acknowledges individuals, organizations and businesses that demonstrate exceptional leadership and make notable, voluntary contributions toward conserving California’s precious resources, protecting and enhancing the environment, building public-private partnerships and strengthening the state economy. It is UC Irvine’s second GEELA; the first was in 2008 for programs that minimize the effects of transportation on climate change.

“The award recognizes the creative solutions and transformative results that Californians are achieving on some of our most significant environmental challenges,” said Matt Rodriquez, secretary for environmental protection. “Their successful approaches demonstrate that we can create a sustainable environment while also promoting a vibrant economy.”

Wendell Brase, UC Irvine’s vice chancellor for administrative & business services, said that the campus and the entire University of California system are committed to achieving the governor’s environmental goals.

“Our Smart Labs program addresses the university’s most energy-intensive facilities: its laboratories,” he said. “And it demonstrates the feasibility of cutting laboratory energy consumption by more than half.”

UC Irvine implemented its Smart Labs program to address a common challenge: Laboratories typically account for two-thirds of the energy used by research universities and have an enormous impact on their carbon footprint. Campus engineers tackled the problem by re-engineering building control systems – ventilation, exhaust and lighting – from top to bottom. The Smart Labs concept relies on a suite of sensors and software to manage energy usage by continuously monitoring occupancy and air quality on a zone-by-zone basis and optimizing air exchange rates accordingly.

Besides generating energy savings of as much as 50 percent in new and retrofitted labs, these systems provide constant air quality data, giving staff valuable information about the safety of the buildings.

“What really make the labs smart are the reports and dashboards now available,” said Matt Gudorf, campus energy manager. “Not only can we spot failed components sooner, but we can determine what aspect of the operation is driving energy use and target it.”

UC Irvine’s Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute was built from the ground up as a Smart Labs facility. Ten other campus buildings have been retrofitted with the full complement of Smart Labs technologies.

About the Governor’s Environmental & Economic Leadership Award Program: This annual program is administered by the California Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Natural Resources Agency, the Department of Food & Agriculture, the State Transportation Agency, the State & Consumer Services Agency, the Labor & Workforce Development Agency, and the Health & Human Services Agency.

About the University of California, Irvine: Located in coastal Orange County, near a thriving employment hub in one of the nation’s safest cities, UC Irvine was founded in 1965. One of only 62 members of the Association of American Universities, it’s ranked first among U.S. universities under 50 years old by the London-based Times Higher Education. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine has more than 28,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.3 billion annually to the local economy.

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