Wendell Brase
Wendell Brase, UCI's associate chancellor for sustainability, has won the Phil Wirdzek Leadership Award from the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories. Brase's work in helping improve efficiency in UCI's research laboratories has led to a substantial decline in energy consumption by labs and has served as an example that has been replicated at institutions around the world. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Oct. 25, 2023 – The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories this week recognized Wendell Brase, UCI associate chancellor for sustainability, with the Phil Wirdzek Leadership Award at its yearly conference in Anaheim.

The award is given annually to an individual embodying the spirit and legacy of late I2SL founder Phil Wirdzek who has inspired others by uplifting sustainable laboratory leaders in innovation and education.

“I am honored to have been chosen to receive this award from the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories,” Brase said. “The sustainable operation of labs has been of great importance to me during my time at UCI, and that commitment is shared by leadership, faculty and student researchers across the campus.”

Brase, who joined UCI in 1991, created the institution’s Smart Laboratories Initiative in 2008, with a goal of reducing lab energy use by 50 percent. He led facility staff in a program to identify opportunities to improve efficiency across the campus and developed a formal process for Smart Lab retrofits. The effort involved allocating new resources and workforce training.

The initiative soon exceeded its stated goal with results including a 57 percent reduction in electricity use, a 72 percent decrease in natural gas consumption and total energy savings of 61 percent across 10 retrofit research labs.

UCI was the first university in the United States to meet President Barack Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge to reduce campuswide energy usage by at least 20 percent by 2020, a feat the institution accomplished seven years early. UCI’s SLI has become an example for leaders of other programs around the world who are looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by their operations.

Brase has offered numerous presentations and led workshops at conferences hosted by I2SL and other organizations in the U.S., China, Singapore and Great Britain. His teachings have focused on the benefits of sound lab design and energy-efficient retrofits to dramatically decrease lab energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and operating costs. Under his leadership, UCI has co-sponsored free Smart Labs workshops with the U.S. Department of Energy to help others plan, implement and maintain the Smart Labs program. Brase also volunteered his time to I2SL’s board of directors, serving from 2011 through 2013.

I2SL is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the sustainable design, engineering and operation of laboratories and decarbonizing laboratories worldwide. Since 2006, I2SL has supported information sharing and education among the various global stakeholders interested in improving efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of labs.