Low-Budget Success Story: Energy Retrofit, Occupant Comfort, Deferred Maintenance, Fast Payback

Amorette Getty, UCSB

UCSB's Energy/Controls office, working in conjunction with campus Environmental Health & Safety and Sustainability offices, identified and developed a scope for a high‐potential energy conservation project at the Physical Sciences Building - North and included limited measures at the neighboring Chemistry building. The savings potential, which identified two simple air-handling modifications, combined well with desired upgrades on the parts of the occupants. These two factors plus opportunities to address deferred maintenance permitted an extremely fast, efficient building project with carbon-saving and cost-saving effects, and providing increased occupant comfort and building longevity.

Collectively, these two buildings consume 9M kilowatt‐hours of electricity and 250K therms of natural gas annually (over ten percent of total campus energy use at a cost of approximately $1.1M annually). This project was driven in part by the desire to add cooling to the first and second floor labs in PSBN. Addressing the needs of overheated occupants led to positive engagement throughout the retrofit and rebalance process. Existing air handling units gained 10-year extended lifetimes through sheet-metal replacements, which required coordination with labs in all ventilation areas of the building during air-supply shut-downs.

Two measures provided the bulk of the energy savings in the project: All CAV fume-hoods in the building were re‐certified to correct face velocities at an 18" sash position from prior certification at a full-open position, in partnership with campus EH&S. This enabled a sizeable reduction in total building airflow and associated heating and cooling, and required air re‐balancing in all spaces.

Second, an optimized heating schedule at PSBN and Chemistry was enacted in coordination with Chemistry department, incorporating temperature setbacks at night in labs without sensitive equipment. Several tests were run prior to full implementation, with no noticeable impact on occupant comfort or research.

After implementation, three months of metered data were trended, and energy savings quantified and validated by a third party engineering consulting firm, based on comparisons to a weather-normalized baseline. Rebate payments thereafter are based on ongoing verifications of building performance at 3, 12, and 24 months after project close-out.

In aggregate, these measures have saved more than 10 percent of electrical energy and cooling energy use, and 20 percent of heating energy use. This equates to a $130K annual utility savings and will yield an incentive $265,000. Total project cost was approximately $548K and the anticipated simple payback period is 25 months from completion.

Learning Objectives

  • identify benefits of project which appeals to multiple stakeholders;
  • become aware of low-cost simple energy-saving measures feasible in constant-air-volume chemistry labs;
  • understand new protocols of a utility-rebate program which requires demonstration of ongoing building energy performance; and
  • understand key concerns of laboratory researchers during an air-supply retrofit and exhaust rebalance.


Amorette Getty works to help scientific labs use every resource they have with expanded efficiency: electrical energy, human energy, water, material waste, researcher time, experience, and attention, and grant funding dollars. She is Co-Director of UCSB's LabRATS program, and chairs the UCSB Campus' Laboratory Ventilation Working Group.


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