Creating Interactive Lab Facilities That Minimize Embodied Carbon

Don Kranbuehl, Clark Nexsen
Adam Torrey, Clark Nexsen

Emerging from the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no substitute for in-person collaboration, research, and education. Designing laboratory buildings that are collaborative continues to be a critical issue, but equally important will be how to maximize embodied carbon efficiency. Minimizing embodied carbon is the critical path for achieving our 2030 goals of carbon reduction, so labs will need to be designed with low embodied carbon footprints.

This presentation will go through case studies and numerous strategies of the design process on how to make an interactive facility with "science on display" while maximizing the embodied carbon performance. But "putting science on display" is not just about creating collaborative and visible research spaces, it is also about following a design process that listens to the science of embodied carbon.

This presentation will showcase design strategies that are used to design an interactive laboratory facility with low embodied carbon through: 1) an effective use of the program to right size; 2) early and sequential carbon modeling through Tally and EC3; 3) careful selection and specification of low carbon materials; and 4) an integrated and sustainable design approach that tracks operational and embodied carbon.

The presenters will use case studies from numerous public educational and research laboratory facilities, as well as private sector research laboratories, to demonstrate these different strategies.

Learning Objectives

  • Develop a better understanding of the processes and design strategies that are most helpful in right-sizing an efficient interactive laboratory facility;
  • Develop an understanding of different design strategies to minimize embodied carbon through the design of structural systems, the exterior envelope, and interior materials;
  • Develop a better understanding of the modeling tools, metrics, and resources most helpful in developing low embodied carbon buildings to help owners make informed decisions; and
  • Recognize the processes within a design firm to track the metrics of embodied carbon and find new opportunities and systems to maximize carbon performance.


Don is an award-winning architect with over 22 years of experience in the design of academic and science and technology projects. Don leads the firm's commitment to the 2030 Challenge and the firm's Integrated Design group which is a network of sustainable designers working to improve the process of creating high-performance buildings.

Adam Torrey works across disciplines to bring analysis-driven perspectives to human-centered environments. He integrates passive and active design strategies, striving to combine design excellence with environmental performance. Adam leads his firm's Embodied Carbon team and currently serves on the AIA North Carolina COTE Leadership Group.


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