Lab HVAC Systems and Control Strategies: A Comparison of Actual Energy Use

Mike Lawless, KJWW Engineering Consultants
Brandon Fortier, KJWW Engineering Consultants

A variety of design options exist for high-performing laboratories but how does each design's performance stack up to the others, and what criteria make a particular design preferable?

This presentation provides case studies on several laboratories, all with differing HVAC systems and control strategies, to provide a comparison of the real life performances of each design. All of the projects were designed to perform substantially better than their code baseline. In addition, each project utilizes a different combination of sustainable technologies including but not limited to energy recovery, airside economizers, geothermal, photovoltaics, chilled beam, and reheat. Several projects are LEED certified or are seeking LEED certification.

The presenters, both of them engineers on one or more of these projects, will discuss each design and the criteria that led to the specifications and systems chosen. They also will provide the actual energy use on the projects, most of which have been in operation for several years.

System combinations to be compared include:

  • Run-around coil for combined exhaust system with fan coil units for local cooling and an energy recovery chiller
  • Heating and cooling from central VAV with run-around coil for combined exhaust
  • Energy recovery wheel with an energy recovery chiller
  • Dedicated outside air unit coupled with 2-pipe chilled beams, duct mounted reheat coils and perimeter radiation all served by a geothermal field and a centralized, modular, water-to-water heat pump.
  • Conventional VAV with reheat air handling unit coupled with campus steam and chilled water; building fume exhaust routed through a run-around-loop and general laboratory exhaust routed through an enthalpy wheel
  • Conventional VAV with reheat air handling unit coupled with local condensing boilers and campus chilled water; fume exhaust and general laboratory exhaust routed through an enthalpy wheel

Presenters also will compare the performance of these systems to typical energy use for these types of facilities.

Learning Objectives

  • Evaluate and compare actual energy use for six different energy efficiency bundles.
  • Identify what science/operational variables can influence actual energy use.
  • Explain how different HVAC systems and energy recovery strategies impact building energy use.
  • Understand how building performance can be improved over time through operational efficiencies and staff familiarity with the systems.


Mike Lawless, PE, FPE, LEED AP, is a client executive for IMEG Corp. in St. Louis. One of ENR Midwest's 2016 Top 20 Under 40, he specializes in fluid mechanics and heat transfer, and is adept at system concept and design for large and complex projects, renovations, expansions, and infrastructure upgrades. His skills include sustainable and green design practices, cost estimating, producing multiple bid packages for accelerated delivery schedules, and systems commissioning.

Brandon Fortier, PE, LEED AP, is a project executive for IMEG Corp. in Naperville, Ill. He has a strong background in the educational and laboratory markets, and has expertise in designing a variety of systems including HVAC, energy recovery, plumbing, and fire protection. He also has an in-depth understanding of energy modeling. His experience includes infrastructure studies, geothermal systems, and projects in pursuit of LEED certification.


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