Designing for Efficient Water Use in Lab Buildings: Why Design Teams Miss This Boat

Paul Erickson, Affiliated Engineers, Inc (AEI)
Lyle Keck, Affiliated Engineers, Inc (AEI)

Established nearly twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program is credited with much of the design industry's advances in creating and renovating buildings to improve energy performance. Some might ask, however, why was it not until LEED V4 that the issue of water use reduction assumed prominence in the scoring system?

The simple answer is that water efficiency is becoming a design driver because of a set of concerns and capabilities. To concerns: increasingly, our society experiences water supply as an imminent threat. There is broad recognition of risk to the quality of water supplies, access to water, and of our country's steep path of increasing water costs. To capabilities: regulators are employing available scientific research to justify added means of water reuse and recycling. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandated introduction of water efficient toilets was transformative. Since then, a variety of manufacturers have brought building system, medical and scientific equipment products to market that are less water use intensive. Finally, the integration of design represents a platform for architects, landscape architects, civil engineers, and MEPs to innovate, to collectively identify opportunities and create design modeling tools to advance water use reduction solutions. Most impactful of these tools are the ones that enable both water use and energy use reduction, leveraging the water:energy nexus.

This session will explain these phenomena and how they are impacting lab design and shaping integrated design. Using case studies to illustrate, this presentation will explore the water:energy nexus relationship in labs and their surrounding communities. The use of energy and water modeling tools, and their ability to inform one another, will be demonstrated. These concepts and tools support the validity of the second part of the presentation: the means of and impact that is easily accessible to design teams to reduce volume of use, reuse and recycle lab water. In closing, the presentation will illustrate how to effectively address challenges offered by owners, researchers and environmental health and safety officers who are unfamiliar with or skeptical about the opportunity to reduce lab water use without adverse impact on lab operations.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain an understanding of the energy:water nexus at district and building scale
  • Identify drivers for rapid water cost increases across the country and why understanding of local dynamics is more critical than with energy
  • Identify key areas of water use and design opportunity in research facilities
  • Exposure to water modeling tools and understanding of how energy and water modeling together are leading to non-traditional design decisions


As AEI's Building Performance Practice Leader, Paul Erickson, LEED AP BD+C, manages the firm's sustainable design services and champions high performance design on projects around the country. As a principal and project manager on laboratories and other project types, he is dedicated to integrated design, driving innovation, utilizing a host of performance simulation tools, and ensuring that design solutions can be operated and maintained in the long term.

Lyle leads the Building Peformance group in AEI's Seattle office, with project experience in the areas of building performance simulation, building systems engineering and high-performance building design. His experience with energy, water and cost analysis of building system in hospitals, laboratories, and data centers has led to implementation of advanced heat recovery systems, radiant heating and cooling systems, and a variety of energy and water conserving operational strategies.


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