Selected Highlights of the Labs21 2010 Annual Conference


Diet, Exercise, and Nutrition Program for Buildings

Mario Loiacono, P.E., LEED AP, BR+A Consulting Engineers      
James Blount, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Ellenzweig


Introduction—Diet, Exercise, and Nutrition Program For Buildings

How can we lower the energy use and carbon footprint of a building? We believe by simplifying the process of sustainable discussions and setting goals whereby each stakeholder can participate will improve results.

The basis is to introduce an approach that uses the power of analogy and metaphor to create a common language that is easily understood by all project stakeholders. The analogy is relating the building to the human body. The metaphor is to create an appropriate diet, exercise, and nutrition plan for the specific project. The definitions of diet, exercise, and nutrition are explained, which clarifies the language basis. It becomes obvious that starting with the diet is very important to lowering the potential calories (carbon footprint) of a building before system options (exercise) are implemented.

Various known green strategies are organized by a diet, exercise, and nutrition action plan. It can be easily seen that this sequence of action items can lead to a more cost effective and reduced carbon footprint when compared to traditional organizational procedures.

Comprehensive Analysis

Start with a checkup. In this case, a comprehensive assessment of the project parameters and objectives includes:

  • Campus—"Count the Calories"—Go beyond the master plan to include infrastructure, utilities, and systems. If the institution signed the President's Climate Commitment, your client already has a detailed analysis of energy outputs and carbon emissions.
  • Buildings, Systems, and LaboratoriesShadow the building user-groups to understand their daily routines. This will enable a more substantial discussion during the programming phase.
  • Equipment—"Examine the Ingredients"—Meter existing electrical loads, inventory laboratory equipment energy consumption, and replace the inefficient with more energy-efficient models. Conduct a pre-selection energy optimization process for all new equipment.
  • Climate and SiteTeam with specialty consultants experienced in the intricacies of climate analysis and engineering. This decision will pay for itself in energy cost savings in short time.
  • Client—"Understand What Your Client Craves"—If the institution has signed the President's Climate Commitment, they are proactive with building performance matters. If they haven't, take their opportunity to increase their awareness of sustainable design and energy conservation.

After the checkup, develop a healthy program. It's important to develop an early understanding of the entire project program including site, landscape, systems, and related sustainable design initiatives.

Establish the pulse of the project. From space program and budget to the overall schedule and sustainable initiatives; it's important to continually check the pulse and keep the project moving in a healthy direction.

Build a healthy site and building. After placing the building on a diet and the building systems have been optimized to burn calories efficiently, the table is set to design a healthy high-performance building.

Select a nutritious menu. Last but not least, a building designed and engineered in a high-performance manner will be better positioned to most efficiently utilize onsite renewable energy resources.


A sample energy use graph representing a laboratory building in the northeastern United States is used for a benchmarking discussion (Figure 1). A goal is set at 62 percent carbon footprint reduction. We focus on the thermal load portion, which represents 48 percent of the annual energy use. The diet plan goal is to reduce the amount of outdoor air ventilation (air changes) to support the fume hoods and code minimum air change rates.

Figure 1
Figure 1: The dramatic energy-reduction potential of more sustainable fume hood strategies. Graph courtesy of Ellenzweig.


The exercise plan explores the use of the real-time air quality monitoring. Recent studies have determined that accidental chemical spills in laboratories are infrequent, creating the opportunity to re-circulate room air until necessary. It also has been established that the criteria of 3,000 feet per minute exhaust fan exit velocity is only required +/- two percent of the time. Therefore, a real-time air quality monitor can be used to increase fan speeds only when required. The bar graph representing the various fume hood strategies (Figure 2) shows the dramatic potential of carbon footprint reduction.

Figure 2
Figure 2: Various fume hood strategies leading to carbon foodprint reduction.


Case Study: SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Research Building

This new 100,000-gross-square-foot Academic Research Building will be designed to accommodate wet and dry laboratories for Environmental and Forest Biology research, greenhouses, teaching gardens, exhibition and gallery space, and administrative office space. In accordance with the college's mission of environmental stewardship, the new building will be designed and engineered to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum certification, and it has a target for total energy consumption of 150,000 British thermal units per square foot per year.


Mario Loiacono is a principal with Bard, Rao + Athanas (BR+A) Consulting Engineers, LLC, a mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire prevention firm that specializes in the design of highly specialized and technically complex research and institutional projects across the United States. Approaching 40 years of experience, 26 of which have been as a principal and co-owner, Mr. Loiacono's focus has been on advanced technology facilities and research laboratories. He shares the passion and experience that other individuals and organizations have in the development of energy reduction strategies for complex, high energy use faculties. "My goal is to further contribute to the ideals of the whole system (collaborative) integration process in order to consistently produce laboratory buildings that are below current energy use benchmarks and within budget."

As a frequent contributor to Labs21 and other technical forums, Mr. Loiacono strongly encourages the sharing of ideas for the common good.

James Blount is a laboratory planning architect and associate principal with Ellenzweig, an architectural design firm located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, providing programming, planning, and design services to more than 70 research institutions throughout the country.

Mr. Blount has focused his career on the design of buildings for science. His experience in sustainable laboratory design has been circulated in both national publications and conferences. "As a laboratory design professional, I'm inspired by the idea that we have the opportunity to promote the principles of high-performance architecture and contribute to the advancement of learning and discovery by way of innovative sustainable design solutions." Mr. Blount welcomes the constant challenge to redefine scientific program, and is intrigued by the complexity of program, space, and systems. He enjoys the teamwork and collaborations integral to creating a highly sustainable and visionary expression of science as the built environment.