Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cold Storage Efficiency Campaign

Allen Doyle, MS, University of California

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a United States federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is the national public health institute focusing on developing and applying disease prevention and control. Sustainability is integral to the HHS mission of protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services. In support of HHS and CDC's sustainability goals, the Laboratory Science, Policy, Practice and Program Office together with the Office of Sustainability have formed a workgroup to improve the efficiency of freezer usage at CDC, leading to reduced costs and environmental impact.

A laboratory building uses four to 10 times as much energy as an office building, with a single ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer using as much energy as a single-family household and emitting as much carbon dioxide as four non-hybrid cars. CDC's main campus has four laboratory buildings with an estimated 1,500 cold storage units. Additional laboratory buildings are located in Georgia, Puerto Rico, Colorado, Alaska, Ohio, and West Virginia. The workgroup considered several approaches to improve the efficiency of cold storage usage, such as temperature tuning, inventory clean-out, sharing space, retiring old freezers, periodically de-frosting freezer units, and using alternatives to ULT freezers. To measure the potential impact of these approaches, the team decided to first perform a count of the cold storage units on the main campus.

The count began in November 2011 and was completed in March 2012. The team plans to analyze the data and determine the total number of cold storage units; the ratio of refrigerators, freezers, and ULT units; and the range of temperature settings for each type of unit (data forthcoming). The workgroup then plans to use these data to identify laboratories to participate in the cold storage efficiency project.

It is our responsibility to minimize laboratory impact on the environment while providing a safe, effective research atmosphere. CDC's cold storage workgroup is attempting to improve laboratory impact, one freezer at a time.


After 20 years of ocean chemistry, soil and permafrost research, the urgency of climate disruption and environmental degradation compelled Allen Doyle to leave the laboratory and work with scientists to improve their workplaces. Mr. Doyle brings an occupant focus to laboratory energy conservation, as he is co-founder of LabRATS, developing a ten-module green laboratory program, a moderator of the Labs21 Energy-Efficient Laboratory Equipment Wiki, organizer of 100+ member national network, working to reduce plug load through cold storage management and the Freezer Challenge contest, and engaged in HVAC optimization through temperature relaxation and control banding. As sustainability manager, he interacts at all levels of campus and hopes that research laboratories and their stakeholders will reach ambitious standards of quality with dramatic improvements in resource consumption. He collaborates with laboratory trade groups, such as the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference and Association of Public Health Laboratories, as well as such federal agencies as U.S. Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and private sector laboratories.