Managing Laboratory Building Energy Drivers: The Not-So-Greenhouse

Chitani Ndisale, Flad Architects
Julia Janaro, Flad Architects

As agricultural research and production facilities continue to grow, cutting-edge greenhouses are becoming increasingly integrated within the laboratory process. Depending upon the local climate and type of research, the greenhouse energy demand may make up to two-thirds of the total building energy model. At this point, it is very difficult to meet sustainability standards based upon typical research laboratory or workplace efficiency practices. In addition, green standards such as USGBC LEED do not typically recognize greenhouse energy usage as a process load, making it difficult to meet the baseline prerequisite. This session will use case studies and project experience to discuss lessons learned and new technologies for greenhouse design across multiple climate regions and research demands.

The challenge to facility planners and designers is to develop strategies to manage these long-term energy loads while maintaining optimum performance and flexibility for the plant scientists. Decisions made early in the design process can lead to known performance expectations, but also must be planned to accommodate unknown future projects over the lifespan of the building. By using a transparent process and incorporating energy usage metrics from the beginning of the project, the design team can work to find possible energy efficiencies.

Based upon an extensive catalog of plant science and greenhouse work, Flad Architects has developed a set of specialized tools to address this growing sustainability concern. This presentation is intended to address performance criteria and goals from advanced planning through long-term operations and metering. It will also highlight the integrative process needed for decision-making and use of new technologies among the design team, owner, and researchers.

Learning Objectives

  • List the key criteria and decisions needed to model greenhouse energy demand early in the design process.
  • Utilize clear tools for researchers and owners to make performance decisions while understanding long-term energy implications.
  • Understand the differences between LEED and Green Globes criteria in relation to greenhouse energy demand.
  • Review technological or controls-based design elements to manage long-term energy use.


Chitani has 13 years of comprehensive architectural experience delivering a variety of science projects for academic, institutional, and corporate organizations. An integral member of Fladís Academic and Science and Technology groups, he is experienced in concept development, design, and documentation of facilities in various R&D focus areas including life sciences, materials sciences, and collaborative research facilities. Clients include Northwestern University, the University of Saskatchewan, Stony Brook University, and several DOE National Laboratories.

Julia has 16 years of experience creating healthy and productive spaces for building occupants, practicing sustainable building and site design, and realizing financial and performance benefits for building owners. With a strong technical background in green building design, guidelines, and policy, her clients have include North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University, University of North Carolina, and Syngenta.


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