Validating Cost and Energy Savings From Shut the Sash Programs at Harvard University

Quentin Gilly, Harvard University

Chemical fume hoods can be one of the most energy intensive aspects of laboratory operation. Depending on HVAC design, a fume hood with an open sash can drive the energy consumption equivalent of three average U.S. households. As part of Harvard's climate goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2016, the University not only looks at upgrading building systems and investing in renewable energy, but also at driving savings through occupant engagement. In 2005 Harvard launched one of its most successful behavioral change programs, the Shut the Sash competition, with the goal of saving money and reducing energy by encouraging thoughtful fume hood management. The competition continues to this day with savings over $200,000 and 300 MTCDE each year.

In the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology there are hundreds of fume hoods concentrated in a relatively small building complex that serve as the primary driver for HVAC in these buildings. Recently the Harvard Green Labs Program assessed of the impact of the Shut the Sash program in these spaces in order to validate their effectiveness and determine whether expansion was warranted. The results of the study confirmed that the estimated savings were real and showed that additional locations could be identified where fume hood competitions would yield additional savings. The analysis also showed that fume hood competitions are more effective than automatic sash closers in some cases, and at less expense. As a result, beginning in September 2015, the competition will be expanded to additional buildings.

This presentation will provide a detailed review of the fume hood management study, as well as an overview of Harvard's long-standing Shut the Sash Program, how it is managed, its impact, and the key lessons learned that other institutions can use to replicate its success.

Learning Objectives

  • Strategy for locating lab spaces in your buildings where fume hood competitions could yield savings.
  • Key steps that must be taken to launch a Shut the Sash competition.
  • Why Shut the Sash could work well for your institution, and what are the expected savings.
  • Cost and management of Shut the Sash, and how it is a substantial return on investment.


Quentin Gilly is the Senior Coordinator at the Harvard University Office for Sustainability. His primary role is to find new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from the lab sector, through occupant engagement and building upgrades. Before moving to the sustainability field, Quentin worked for six years as a lab manager and automation specialist at Harvard Medical School. His goal is to bridge his lab experience and passion for the environment to find new and innovative ways to approach sustainability in laboratories.


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