High Efficiency in Radiological Laboratory Design

Dirk von Below, Flad Architects
Michael Finder, Argonne National Laboratory

Today's laboratories are often very complex projects with sophisticated technical demands and regulatory constraints. How do we balance these demands and still achieve high sustainable performance? Using the new radiological Materials Design Laboratory at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) as an example, we will present a process of pushing the limits and selecting appropriate measures that reduce resource consumption to create a highly productive environment for ANL.

The requirements for federal projects include:

  • 30% more efficient design than ASHRAE 90.1 (we achieved nearly 40%).
  • LEED Gold certification.
  • Compliance with Labs21 Environmental Performance Criteria.
  • Monitoring resources during future operations.
  • Meeting all other requirements set by the Department of Energy and the Federal government.

The owner's project team, together with the designers and engineers, approached these challenges in a robust, integrated team that focused on the following strategic initiatives:

  • Climate Awareness in Design: In siting the MDL, the location and orientation of the building mass reflects the need for access, adjacency, and future buildings in the area. The low sun angles in the morning and evening required thoughtful lighting control, while offering daylight harvesting and naturally lit work places.
  • Optimized Systems Design: Fundamental strategies for increasing energy performance included reducing energy demand through proper building orientation and reduction of internal loads such as lighting; increasing efficiency of the building's HVAC systems starting with an ideal laboratory stacking concept; and recovering waste heat. Each of these approaches were supported by whole building commissioning to ensure the building functions as designed.
  • Campus Integration: Use of waste heat from an adjacent high performance computing laboratory to reduce the overall energy consumption.
  • User Behavior: Implementing a comprehensive fume hood sash management policy, which will encourage users to lower the fume hood sash of VAV fume hoods to increase safety while reducing energy consumption.
  • Measurement and Verification: Advanced measurement and verification systems and procedures for the MDL to track energy usage over the life of the building and to enable the facility to fully participate in laboratory energy benchmarking programs such as Labs21 Benchmarking.

Learning Objectives

  • Learning about senior management project goals for a National Laboratory of the Department of Energy.
  • Balancing costs, sustainability, and safety requirements.
  • Identifying unique laboratory design solutions for radiological labs.
  • Applying Labs21 EPC today and meeting federal sustainable design requirements.


Dirk has 27 years of comprehensive architectural experience delivering science buildings to private and institutional clients. He has managed large projects that balance state-of-the-art design, efficiency, and environmental design within a tight financial framework. Dirk's experience includes cost estimates, planning, and quality assurance. Clients include several DOE National Laboratories, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Stony Brook University.

Michael is a program manager at Argonne's Office of Project Management and is the project manager/owner rep on the MDL project. In this role, he provides leadership on a portfolio of complex projects, serving as the key liaison with project teams, sponsors, contractors, designers, and scientific/operations stakeholders. He is responsible for delivering projects within budget, scope, and schedule baselines. Michael is a licensed architect, LEED AP BD+C, and certified PMP.


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