Smart, Green, and Everything in Between: UVA Offers a One-Stop Shop for Lab Sustainability

Fiona Hogan, University of Virginia
Keith Poeppel, University of Virginia
Christine Alencar, University of Virginia

In 2018, the UVA Office for Sustainability performed a comprehensive pilot program in three research labs that resulted in a 12% decrease in average energy use. As UVA's lab sustainability program has grown, we continue to realize the benefits of bundling Green Labs, Smart Labs, and well-demonstrated retrocommissioning strategies for capitalizing on the many safety and sustainability opportunities found in labs.

Performing ventilation risk assessments in collaboration with campus Health & Safety has allowed our program to quantify risk and subsequent ventilation needs for each lab, correcting decades of a "one-size-fits-all" approach to lab design. Beyond ventilation, energy engineers audit building HVAC systems to identify issues and opportunities for system optimization. In tandem, the campus Green Labs specialist develops customized outreach solutions based on highest-impact needs of occupants working in each building, such as intensive Shut the Sash campaigns for fume hood-driven buildings, or Freezer Challenge support in biomedical labs.

The Smart Labs program's growing portfolio has resulted in an impact of over $750,000 in energy savings to date, and Green Labs recently saved $7,632 through a targeted month-long campaign. Our team addresses lab sustainability from floor to deck, researcher by researcher, building by building, and we believe that every institution with research space can benefit from a similar holistic model.

Learning Objectives

  • Explore the benefits of bundling outreach and engagement with retrocommissioning projects in lab buildings;
  • Learn about the selection and design process for building-specific outreach initiatives that engage stakeholders at every level;
  • Understand the value of placing safety and support for research at the forefront of lab sustainability initiatives; and
  • Examine the process of carrying out multiple interventions, project phases, and communications plans in different lab buildings.


Fiona Hogan is the Green Labs Specialist in the UVA Office for Sustainability. Fiona specializes in community engagement and facilitation of strategic planning processes. She has over eight years of experience working in higher education and a Master's in Sustainable Development Practice from the University of Florida.

Keith Poeppel is an Energy & Sustainability Engineer at UVA. He identifies and implements energy efficiency projects, and previously worked as a mechanical engineer performing HVAC design, energy modeling, and project management. He has a Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer.

From the lab bench to the air handler, Christine aligns the perspectives of researchers, health and safety experts, and energy engineers to make science work for our world. She holds a Bachelor's and Master's of Science, has training in lab ventilation and project management, and is a member of I2SL's Ventilation Effectiveness Working Group.


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