Energy Optimization in Labs: Brown University’s Approach Prioritizes Safety

Linda Olmsted, Brown University
Matt Fragala, Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc.

To help achieve their aggressive carbon reduction goals - 42% by 2020 - Brown University partnered with EH&E on a campus-wide laboratory energy optimization program. Participants will learn about Brown's experience in implementing this program and the strategy used to achieve energy savings while prioritizing environmental health and safety in the labs.

Essential to implementation of the program was obtaining buy-in from stakeholders and the collaboration between environmental health and safety and the department of facilities management.

The first step of the program was conducting control banding for each lab to assess risk and align ventilation controls with lab hazards. Assessing risk involved review of the chemicals, materials, equipment and procedures used in the lab. Based on the control banding results, labs are assigned a risk group that is used to identify labs where air flow may be adjusted without negatively impacting safety or research.

An engineering assessment is also conducted for each lab to assess current ventilation rates among other criteria such as cooling load profiles and sequence of operation. The combined results of the risk and engineering assessments determine if there is opportunity within the lab for energy savings and the measures for obtaining energy savings. The presenters will share examples of the control banding process and HVAC modifications being implemented to achieve energy savings.

To ensure continued performance and energy savings a Laboratory Ventilation Management Plan (LVMP) was developed for each lab building. The LVMP documents the performance of the lab mechanical ventilation systems over time and can help identify changes in system performance, which may be an indicator of a problem that needs to be resolved.

For the buildings where the optimization program is underway, energy modeling projections indicate that optimizing lab ventilation rates typically result in roughly a 20% reduction in the annual HVAC related energy costs for those labs. Higher projected energy savings may be realized for labs having greater unoccupied periods. This session will reveal lessons learned and additional factors that contributed to the successful implementation of the program including:

  • The control banding risk evaluation process including what inputs are most important.
  • The key components of an LVMP and how it is used to ensure ongoing performance, savings and safety.
  • The importance of having a champion to spearhead the project and obtain buy-in. How incorporating health and safety into the process is essential to success.
  • The value of an accurate chemical inventory and data management system to streamline the risk assessment process.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the control banding risk assessment process, including key data inputs and assigning the risk rating, and how it helps determine if a lab is a viable candidate for energy savings.
  • Identify the key elements of an accurate, effective chemical inventory and describe how it is used to support the control banding risk assessment and energy optimization processes.
  • Strategize how to prioritize health and safety in the lab when implementing an energy reduction program.
  • Communicate the importance of a strong collaboration between facilities and health and safety departments in order for lab energy savings programs to succeed, and how to obtain buy-in from all stakeholders.


Linda Olmsted is the Chemical Hygiene Officer at Brown University. Linda manages the Laboratory Safety Program for approximately 400 laboratories on campus. Linda received her Master of Science degree from the University of Rhode Island. She is a member of Brown University's Laboratory Safety Committee, the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

Matt Fragala is Practice Director of the Education and Commercial Division at Environmental Health & Engineering. Matt directs a team of industrial hygienists, safety professionals, hazardous material managers, and compliance and air quality experts to help his clients achieve safety in the workplace. Matt earned his Master of Science (MS) degrees from the University of Massachusetts, is a Certified Industrial Hygienist, and holds an academic appointment of Lecturer at Brandeis University.


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