Forging a New Era in Lab Benchmarking

Alison Farmer, kW Engineering
Paul Mathew, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Things are changing in the world of lab benchmarking. New studies are paving the way for fairer, more useful approaches to assessing lab building performance, and the 16-year-old Labs21 Benchmarking Tool is finally being retired. I2SL and LBNL are working together to create a new, improved, modern lab benchmarking tool to better serve the lab community. The new tool is due to be released in early 2019. By the time of the conference, the team will have completed a draft design of the new user experience and benchmarking database. In this special session, we’ll offer a sneak preview of the new tool, we’ll explain the reasoning behind the new features, and we’ll hold a mini design charrette for attendees to provide feedback to make sure our industry’s needs are met. Topics will include the following:

  • An introductory overview of the lab benchmarking landscape, and the (limited) tools and resources that have been available to date.
  • A summary of recent progress in lab benchmarking. The design of the new tool incorporates lessons learned from the latest in lab benchmarking work, especially the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s three-year study of 132 higher-education and healthcare lab buildings. We’ll summarize the final results of that study, and the prospects for an energy performance score for labs.
  • A preview of the new user interface design. Feedback from session attendees is highly encouraged.
  • A tour of the new data fields. With the assistance of I2SL’s Lab Benchmarking Working Group, LBNL has revamped the benchmarking data fields to accommodate more modern lab building types and systems, and to remove confusing and/or highly error-prone fields from the database. We’ll explain the changes, and describe how back-compatibility with the existing Labs21 database will be maintained.
  • A discussion of the long-term plan for I2SL’s lab benchmarking resources, and some enhanced features that are in the works for future versions of the tool.

Learning Objectives

  • List some ways in which high-quality benchmarking data can help to catalyze positive change as part of the new-building design process or the design of an energy efficiency program for existing buildings.
  • Explain why benchmarking for lab buildings is more challenging than for most other types of facility.
  • Describe the ways in which the new lab benchmarking tool will be a more useful resource than the retiring Labs21 Benchmarking Tool.
  • Contribute to the ongoing discussion on the long-term plan for I2SL’s lab benchmarking resources.


Alison is a former research astrophysicist who now specializes in saving this planet by bringing energy efficiency to lab buildings. Her focus areas at kW include energy analysis, HVAC control system design and commissioning, and lab energy use benchmarking. Alison has chaired I2SL’s lab benchmarking working group since its inception in 2014. She has bachelors and masters degrees in physics from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in astrophysics from Caltech.

Paul Mathew is a Staff Scientist and Department Head of Whole Building Systems at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where he conducts applied research and market transformation activities on energy use in buildings. His current work is focused on energy data analysis, benchmarking tools and techniques, and energy-related risk analysis. Prior to joining LBNL, he worked at Enron Energy Services and the Center for Building Performance at Carnegie Mellon University. He has authored over 100 technical papers, articles and reports. He received a U.S. presidential award for federal energy efficiency in 2007. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture, and a Ph.D. in Building Performance and Diagnostics from Carnegie Mellon University. 


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