Selected Highlights of the Labs21 2010 Annual Conference


Smart Labs at The University of California (UC), Irvine

Marc Gomez, and Matt Gudorf, LEED AP, UC Irvine


The Smart Labs concept is an integrated approach to energy reduction and sustainability in energy-intensive research space on university campuses. The goal in applying the smart labs features is to reduce overall annual energy consumption by 50 percent. 

Smart Lab Features:

  • Exhaust stack discharge velocity reduction (ESDVR) looks to reduce laboratory exhaust stack velocity and eliminate bypass air by reevaluating the original building wind tunnel study and performing additional wind tunnel testing to avoid re-entrainment and contamination of occupied spaces. Exhaust stacks may be modified to allow for increased plume dispersion and decreased energy consumption. 
  • Centralized demand controlled ventilation looks at real-time indoor air quality in the occupied spaces and varies the ventilation rates accordingly. This allows for significant air change rate setbacks during times of low process activity and laboratory space non-occupancy.
  • High-performance fume hoods allow for improved containment with the potential to reduce face velocity from 100 feet per minute (FPM) to approximately 70 FPM based on a study conducted at UC Irvine in conjunction with the California Occupational Safety and Health Act. 
  • Smart lighting in laboratory space with daylighting opportunities use controls to reduce light levels when adequate natural light is available. Perforated blinds are used in these spaces to diffuse direct sunlight but allow for partial daylight penetration. Occupancy sensing is used in a bay-by-bay configuration for maximum segmentation. 
  • Where possible, ENERGY STAR® equipment should be used. This includes freezers, refrigerators, ice machines, and copiers.

UC Irvine has developed a Smart Lab Energy Project Guide that is applied to each laboratory building. The guide provides a comprehensive look at each building's systems to ensure that projects are sequenced to provide maximum energy efficiency. As funding allows, the projects are implemented and savings are achieved. This permits UC Irvine to complete a portfolio of projects across all laboratory buildings, updating the systems to our Smart design.

Sue and Bill Gross Hall Case Study

Sue and Bill Gross Hall is UC Irvine's newest laboratory building and was designed and constructed using our Smart Lab standards. Opened on May 14, 2010, the building is UC Irvine's benchmark for Smart Lab energy savings.
Features of Gross Hall include centralized demand controlled ventilation, step dimming capability to respond to daylighting opportunities, and operable windows in office spaces to encourage the use of natural ventilation to improve indoor air quality. Air handlers are designed with a low face velocity across the coils and are equipped with deep pleat, high media surface area, MERV 14 filters to reduce system pressure drop, and fan motors run on variable frequency drives. Exhaust fans are high plume vector type fans with induced flow and are right-sized to take advantage of fan law savings through running multiple fans at a slower speed on variable frequency drives. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning design also includes cascade cooling through transfer grills to secondary spaces to eliminate the need for fan-coil units.

Estimated annual energy savings:

  •  890,080 kilowatt-hours (kWh) electrical with 193 kW demand reduction.
  •  22,464 therms of natural gas.

Estimated annual energy cost savings:

  •  $110,980 at $0.105/kWh and $0.78/therm.

The project yielded savings by design payment of $397,836 and exceeded Title 24 by 50 percent. The project was bid as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction (LEED®-NC) Silver Design Build; the contractor proposed to increase the sustainable features to achieve LEED-NC Gold certification.

Next Steps:

We plan to measure Gross Hall's energy savings performance against a recent, efficient laboratory building, Hewitt Hall, by metering the buildings and comparing key metrics.


Marc Gomez is the interim assistant vice chancellor of facilities management and environmental health and safety at UC Irvine. He has more than 27 years of experience working in private industry, health care, and the academic environment. Mr. Gomez holds certifications in industrial hygiene, safety, and risk management. He has a Masters of Public Health from the University of Michigan.

Matt Gudorf is the energy project manager at UC Irvine and a LEED Accredited Professional with 10 years of infrastructure project management experience. A graduate of The Ohio State University in electrical engineering with an emphasis on high voltage systems, Mr. Gudorf has worked for Dayton Power and Light in transmission and distribution, American Electric Power as a member of the ultra high-voltage substation design team, and Southern California Pipeline managing multiple wet utility projects throughout Southern California. Mr. Gudorf has focused his efforts at UC Irvine on energy efficiency upgrades, utility and infrastructure retrofits, and project development.