Lab Design Optimization Using LCA and Energy Modeling

Mitra Sajjadi, Jacobs Engineering Group Co.
Jane Kepros, Jacobs Engineering Group Co.

There are many types of labs being designed today for a wide range of commercial clients, from incubators or start-ups to big pharma. These design projects vary in scale from individual, small support labs to much larger building or campus-wide lab projects. Even though established best practices for planning and designing these spaces are generally used, there are always ways to improve upon these designs to make the labs more energy-efficient and sustainable. Comparing metrics for design elements (such as space usage, storage types, utility distribution, etc.) between design options or against a base case, a design can be quickly optimized for efficiency. Using multiple tools can help identify potential problem areas or quantify the impacts of different design options or strategies. Hence, it is possible to reduce energy consumption, or implement more sustainable strategies in a lab project of any size, if design options are analyzed early in the design process.

Life cycle assessments (LCAs) have been proven to be useful in recognizing environmental impacts of products from beginning to end of life. Because labs inherently have a larger carbon footprint, it can be challenging to find ways to make a lab more sustainable. LCA is helpful in recognizing the long-term environmental impact of products used within the lab. Through LCA, clients can better understand and forecast their operational expenses, and evaluate the potential return on their investment using a more sustainable approach. LCA can help inform clients about the impact of their space on the environment and enable comparisons of energy-saving potential among design strategies for their spaces.

Energy modeling is a great tool for analyzing a design and comparing it to a base case, or against other design options, with regards to energy performance. It can be used to understand the overall energy performance of a lab and help the design team identify the areas that could be improved. This allows the lab designers to focus on particular areas of concern, based on the results. It is also useful for comparing strategies to see the impact of various approaches to retrofit a design for a lab space and save more energy. Using case studies to demonstrate how these analytic tools can be used to compare novel designs to base case or alternative strategies in different project types, this presentation will show how to effectively improve the efficiency of labs and reduce their environmental impact over time.

Learning Objectives

  • Identification of some areas for analysis when designing a more environmentally friendly lab space;
  • How to perform a life-cycle-assessment (LCA) of a lab space;
  • How to run energy modeling for lab spaces; and
  • How to compare base/existing design to proposed/future design with the analysis tools.


As an Architectural Designer, Mitra is involved in all phases of the project, including master planning, programming, schematic design, design development, construction documentation, LEED documentation, and construction administration. Her zeal for architecture focuses largely on climate-responsive design for buildings and incorporating sustainable strategies to the conceptual design phase of the project.

With a background in molecular and cell biology, Lab Planner Jane Kepros brings first-hand laboratory knowledge to provide in-depth insight to clients of the sciences. She has the ability to synthesize complex programming data into coherent space planning concepts, allowing the project team to create designs that meet the needs of clients and support the research development taking place in the lab.


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