Sharing the Road to Energy Efficiency with Principal Investigators

Alison Farmer, kW Engineering
Matthew Gudorf, University of California, Irvine

Laboratories exist to serve the research projects initiated and managed by Principal Investigators (PIs). However, PIs have traditionally been viewed by the efficiency industry as an obstacle to be overcome (or bypassed) on the path to energy savings in labs. Coping strategies employed by energy managers range from communication is key to the less they know the better. This roundtable, which will incorporate both presentation and discussion components, will address the critically important question of how best to earn the support and confidence of PIs and lab managers when proposing and implementing energy efficiency upgrades in lab facilities. The authors will present valuable lessons learned based on experience leading UC Irvine's highly successful lab energy efficiency program and with clients at Stanford University and at major pharmaceutical and biotech companies. We'll also discuss the results of the latest market research on PI attitudes to energy efficiency. The structured group discussion will focus on identifying consensus areas regarding the best collaborative strategies for successful projects, and on defining common pitfalls and remaining challenges. Through this open discussion we aim to compile a best practices guide to advance mutual understanding (and mutual benefit) for energy efficiency professionals and lab PIs. Attendance by energy managers, designers, consultants, and of course by PIs is encouraged and welcomed.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the needs and priorities of lab principal investigators
  • Anticipate and explain potential areas of conflict between efficiency projects and the needs of PIs
  • List successful strategies for engaging scientists and gaining support for efficiency projects
  • Discuss how to demonstrate positive outcomes to stakeholders


Alison Farmer is a physicist with a deep dedication to energy efficiency in buildings. Ms. Farmer has extensive experience as an energy efficiency consultant for lab facilities, from strategic planning to detailed energy savings calculations. She has taught classes on energy analysis and is chair of the I2SL Lab Benchmarking Working Group. Ms. Farmer holds bachelors and masters degrees in physics from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in astrophysics from Caltech.

Matt Gudorf has led UC Irvine's energy management group for the last four years. He graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in electrical engineering and is a Certified Energy Manager. Under his leadership, UC Irvine completed a record number of energy-efficiency projects under the UC/CSU/IOU Energy Efficiency Partnership in 2012 and 2014. Mr. Gudorf's work as the Campus Energy Manager has focused on all aspects of energy management.


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