Cleanroom Energy Conservation Strategies at MIT.nano

Marcell Graeff, Wilson HGA
Lisa Matthiessen, Wilson HGA

Dedicated to experimentation and instruction, MIT.nano represents one of the largest commitments to research in MIT's history. The facility will carry the last two decades of nanoscale characterization and investigation into new realms of application and discovery. Occupying the footprint of Building 12 just steps from the Infinite Corridor at the heart of the MIT campus, MIT.nano will support the activities of 2,000 MIT researchers in over 40,000 SF of cleanroom space, the largest academic cleanroom facility in the country.

Energy consumption will dominate MIT.nano's environmental impact. Research labs in general, especially research cleanrooms, use more energy than nearly any other type of building. MIT.nano was designed to be one of the most energy efficient facility of its kind. Even with this, the project has a predicted Energy Use Intensity of 753 kBTU/sf/yr! How did the project team get there?

To reduce energy consumption, nearly 140 energy conservation measures (ECMs) were brainstormed and evaluated; and more than 60 were implemented. In addition, the team benchmarked 15 college and university cleanrooms across the country. These two efforts identified eight ‘beyond' ECMs that are not standard practice in cleanroom design, yet have the potential to significantly reduce energy use. MIT.nano incorporates an unprecedented six out of these eight strategies, with the potential to implement a seventh now that the building is operational.

These 'beyond' strategies include the following:

  • Exhaust Heat Recovery
  • Variable Volume Exhaust and Make-up
  • 100% Filter Coverage of Cleanroom Ceiling
  • Variable Volume RAHU, Based on Occupancy and/or Particle Counters
  • Class 100 Cleanroom Air Change Rate Below 165 ACH (occupancy sensors and particle counters make it possible to reduce down to 120 ACH) (can be implemented once the building is fully operational)
  • Local Reheat with Low-Temperature Make-Up Air
  • Heat Recovery from Sub-Cooling Chiller
  • Relaxed Cleanroom Dewpoint, Allowing ≥49oF Tdp (not implemented)

The implementation of these ECMs result in:

  • 51% Energy Cost Savings compared to the LEED baseline
  • 29% Building Site Energy Consumption (MIT.nano Building)
  • 33% Source Energy Consumption (MIT.nano + MIT Central Utility Plant)

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will become conversant in the drivers and metrics of cleanroom energy consumption using examples from a benchmarking study of academic cleanrooms across the country;
  • Participants will acquire a working frame of reference for energy innovation in cleanroom facilities, based on precedent academic cleanrooms;
  • Participants will be able to discuss the advantages of flexibility for cleanroom HVAC systems to meet both heavy research demands and energy reduction targets; and
  • Participants will be able to prioritize investments in energy efficiency toward best in class performance solutions for cleanroom facilities.


Marcell Graeff draws on over 20 years of experience with complex projects for K-12 and higher education clients. Marcell has a long-standing interest in sustainable design with a focus on high-performance building envelopes, passive house, healthy building materials, renewable energy, and resiliency. Marcell earned a Bachelor of Architecture from Syracuse University. Marcell is proud to have worked on the Construction Administration side of the MIT.nano project for the past three years.

Lisa Matthiessen leads HGA's approach to high-performance building design, guides research and education, and support industry-leading projects. Throughout her career, Lisa has progressed from designing individual buildings that set new green benchmarks to framing the national dialogue on sustainable design through her work on national committees, associations, and forums. Lisa is also known for her research into the cost implications of building green.


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