Optimizing Laboratory Ventilation: Approaches to Estimating Economic Potential

Susan Vargas, Stanford University
Hwakong Cheng, Taylor Engineering

Laboratory buildings often have both the greatest energy use and highest energy intensity of all buildings at research universities. Extensive investment in comprehensive retrofits has significantly reduced energy use in many older science buildings through measures such as VAV conversions and control system upgrades. To have truly "high performance" buildings, however, will require taking advantage of new technologies and best practices to optimize laboratory ventilation, such as air change setback, fume hood minimum flow reduction, and automatic hood sash closers. Our presentation describes Stanford University's process for estimating the economic potential of campus-wide laboratory ventilation optimization. We present the results of three studies, culminating in a spreadsheet tool used to estimate savings for a number of interactive measures based on basic room and hood parameters. The estimated discounted payback periods range from one to two years for individual measures and up to eight years for larger packages of measures at the evaluated buildings.

Learning Objectives

  • Realize the energy savings opportunities enabled by modern laboratory building technologies and evolving approaches to providing safe, productive research space.
  • Be able to describe typical laboratory ventilation optimization measures, including benefits and implementation challenges.
  • Know when it is appropriate to apply different methods, from relatively simple to sophisticated, to estimate the economic potential of laboratory ventilation optimization at a single building or campus.
  • Gain a working knowledge of the interactive effects of typical laboratory ventilation measures and how they differ in general exhaust-dominated and hood-dominated spaces.


Susan (Kulakowski) Vargas conducts demand-side market research, evaluates and demonstrates promising technologies, and develops new program delivery strategies to reduce demand for energy in 14 million square feet of building stock at Stanford University. She has a BA in Public Policy from Stanford and earned her MS from the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley.

Hwakong Cheng is a registered mechanical engineer and a Principal at Taylor Engineering. His work focuses on energy efficient HVAC design, with specialization in controls system design, energy analysis, and commissioning. He is also involved in primary research developing advanced control sequences as well as studies in support of building energy code changes. Mr. Cheng holds degrees from Brown University and the University of Colorado, Boulder.


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