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Decarbonizing the World's Labs

Laboratories have an outsized impact on carbon emissions due to their energy-intensive nature, so it is vital to understand the steps that lab owners, managers, designers, and engineers can take to help decarbonize them. To develop a roadmap to decarbonize the world’s high-tech research facilities, I2SL is creating the Labs2Zero program, comprised of a variety of options and information that address both the complexity of laboratories and the need to make them more efficient while reducing the emissions associated with their building and operations. To help launch the program, experienced professionals from the lab industry are volunteering their time and expertise on Technical Advisory Committees (TACs). Additionally, contributions from Sponsors help fund development of criteria and tools to support the Labs2Zero program components.

Labs2Zero recognizes that laboratories can be an integral part of an organization’s net zero emissions strategy. Benchmarking building performance data in the LBT compared to similar type labs, then generating Energy and Operational Emissions Scores is the first step; as of spring 2024, buildings can also be benchmarked for embodied carbon. A standardized report of tailored measures to reduce energy and emissions for a specific lab building is under development and will include the recommended measures’ associated reduction benefits, return on investment, and relevant case studies to help spur action on performance. Certifying the results of a high-performing lab will verify and recognize labs that can serve as a model for other facilities. Lastly, professional training and accreditation programs will provide assistance and capacity to more rapidly transform the industry.

In June 2024, Labs2Zero Program Director Alison Farmer and I2SL President Gordon Sharp provided an overview of the latest Labs2Zero Tools and the ongoing work of the Labs2Zero Program.

To understand an existing lab’s energy performance, I2SL currently hosts the Laboratory Benchmark Tool (LBT). Developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and free to use, it stores data from approximately 1,000 lab buildings, the world’s largest lab building energy and emissions benchmarking database. Building off this successful tool, I2SL is creating several other key aspects of the Labs2Zero program:

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Lab Energy Score

Using data entered into the LBT, the Labs2Zero Pilot Energy Score provides quantitative, normalized scores based on energy use intensity (EUI), lab size, type, occupancy, and weather. Lab energy performance is rated from 1 to 100, where 100 represents the highest performance on a percentile basis. A new feature allows users to select a target Energy Score value and determine what their corresponding energy use intensity (EUI) levels would need to be to achieve it.

for Labs

As of May 2024, labs entering data in the LBT will be able to receive a pilot scorecard Operational Emissions Score showing how the greenhouses gases from their operations compare to other laboratory facilities in the LBT with similar operations and climate zones. The score is a 1-100 percentile ranking of a lab building’s location-based emissions, which means it is calculated using emissions factors for the building’s electric grid and all other energy utilities used at the facility.

Actionable Insights and Measures (AIM) Report

This standardized report will recommend energy and carbon reduction measures to achieve energy savings and emissions reductions customized to your lab, plus estimated implementation costs and calculated return on investment, based on the information entered into the LBT and as a way to improve upon the numbers in the energy and emissions scorecard. It will also include case studies of proven technologies and techniques to reduce energy intensity and emissions.

Embodied Carbon Benchmarking Tool

Based on life cycle assessment (LCA) data submitted by volunteers, I2SL’s LBT has been expanded to include a database of LCA data related to the embodied carbon of materials used in the construction of new lab buildings and major renovations. LBT users can now benchmark either existing lab buildings or those in the design stage against selected peer group buildings with similar characteristics in I2SL’s LBT.


For new lab construction and major retrofits, this service will allow building designers and engineers to select a desired energy and emissions score and receive the estimated EUI and greenhouse gas emission targets based on planned design characteristics. Design2Zero will provide suggestions on the best approaches to reduce energy and emissions to help achieve that desired score or rating, factoring in both estimated performance and costs.

Lab Emissions Performance Certification

To publicly recognize and celebrate those facilities leading the way in energy and emissions reduction, I2SL will develop a certification scheme to verify the labs’ performance on the scorecards and validate baseline lab safety requirements. Users can pay to both have their labs certified through this program and receive technical assistance from an accredited professional who has demonstrated knowledge through this program.

Training and Accreditation Program

Individuals will be trained to benchmark lab buildings, act on AIM report recommendations, use the Design2Zero tool, and/or earn accreditation to verify lab building results as part of the lab certification program.

This program is overseen by the Labs2Zero Leadership Council, which consists of the following volunteers:

  • Alison Farmer, I2SL

  • Anthony Michetti, Cell Signaling Technology

  • Brad Cochran, CPP Wind

  • Chad House, Siemens Industry, Inc.

  • Dan Diehl, Aircuity

  • Dan Doyle, Grumman/Butkus Associates

  • Deirdre Carter, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

  • Dirk Von Below, Flad Architects

  • Eleni Reed, Alexandria Real Estate

  • Gordon Sharp, I2SL

  • Kevin Brettmann, JE Dunn Construction

  • Punit Jain, Cannon Design

  • Shannon Horn, University of Colorado Boulder

  • Thomas Smith, 3Flow

  • Yvon Lachance, YLA Architecture

Creating and completing this program will require involvement across the sustainable laboratory community. Read more about how to sponsor or volunteer expertise for Labs2Zero.

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