Scientific method

Laboratory facilities are among the most sensitive, complex structures an engineer can be asked to consult on. Juggling issues of sustainability, environmental integrity, cost control, and others can be a scientific process in and of itself. Here, top engineers offer their advice on how to effectively handle such delicate projects and maintain the perfect chemistry.



CSE: When starting out on a laboratory facility project, what are some of the questions you need to ask early in the project?

Fiona CousinsFiona Cousins: Are there specific energy goals? Are there minimum air change rates that are dictated by environmental health and safety? Are there other sustainability goals? What is the program for the science? How is the research likely to change in the future, and what provision needs to be made for those changes? Are there specific requirements for particular types of equipment that are dictated by campus or corporation practice?

Tom Divine: First, what will be going on in the laboratory? It’s difficult to operate as an effective member of the design team without a better-than-layman’s understanding of the owner’s goals, and of the activities that will be conducted in the lab. Second, what’s going to be in the lab? Hazardous chemicals, radioactives, pathogens, or vivaria will all have an impact on the design direction. Third, what are the owner’s goals for the lifecycle of the facility? Research laboratories that will see multiple cycles of change require much more flexibility than single-purpose industrial spaces. Finally, what rules are in place? Most institutions have specific design guidelines, a lot of projects have a requirement for LEED certification, and some jurisdictions have more stringent codes than others.

Dean Eriksen: To what extent do we apply the criteria for flexibility of systems design; is the design to satisfy the current program only or does it need to be criteria-based design to satisfy a wide array of research programs over time? To what extent do we apply adaptable design criteria? Do we plan for an office space being converted to a lab function or vice versa? To what level of future capacity should we plan in the systems? What level of redundancy is required in each system?

Darren Harvey: It’s important to understand the role each person will play on the team and have an open discussion about project milestones, decisions, and how information and deadlines should be tracked. Lab projects generally involve more players because of the large amount of equipment, complexity of the design, and complexity of operation. Procurement of lab equipment and casework often introduces small changes in utility requirements that need to be clearly and quickly communicated to the design team and contractors to avoid costly changes once construction is complete and something isn’t accounted for.

Elisabeth PatinoElisabeth Patino: What are the lab uses/types (i.e., biological, chemical, animal, physical)? What are the design parameters (i.e., ambient space conditions, air quality, special pressurization requirements, sound and vibration limits)? What is the equipment and process heat gain? What are the numbers/sizes/types of fume hoods? Are there considerations for planned changes in size and number of fume hoods? Are there biological safety cabinets in the room? If so, what types and sizes of cabinets? Are there provisions for future adaptability and flexibility? Is this a containment lab, and if so, what is the BSL rating? What are the lab utility and lab gas requirements? What chemicals and quantities of such chemical are being stored and used? What is the room occupancy schedule? What are the lab adjacencies? What are the ancillary spaces? What is the desired level of control with room HVAC control (i.e., constant versus variable air volume), pressure control (i.e., manual balance, direct pressure, volumetric flow tracking, cascade) and fume hood control (i.e., constant flow, variable flow)?

CSE: How have evolving high-tech facilities affected the engineering work on such buildings?

Eriksen: There is a higher level of integration between the systems: BAS, lighting control, fire alarm, information technology. This demands more specific specifications for integrated functional requirements and communication between systems.

Patino: Increased energy efficiency by using such strategies as reduced ventilation requirements based on real-time sensing of contaminants; setting back controls when labs are unoccupied; fume hood selection to optimize exhaust system air requirements by matching airflow to sash opening, and reducing inflow velocities where reduced velocity is appropriate; optimum stack heights; room cooling approaches such as chilled beams, local fan coils, chilled radiant ceiling panels, etc.; and energy recovery systems.

Darren HarveyHarvey: MEP systems design has evolved with ever-increasing technology and the worldwide push to operate efficiently and consume less energy. There is also a push for facility operators to reduce FTEs, which need to be considered when deciding how complex a system should be. More complexity can require more maintenance time to make sure the systems continue to run efficiently. Complex systems also require more owner training for maintenance and operation personnel. Facility managers are often faced with situations where they need to provide a quick solution to an operating problem, and proper training on the front end will result in better solutions in the long run.

CSE: Please describe a recent lab project you’ve worked on—share problems you’ve encountered, how you’ve solved them, and aspects of the project you’re especially proud of.

Patino: The most recent lab project we have completed is the Level C materials science engineering lab for Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Level C modifications are the first phase of a two-phase project. The level C modifications are constructed. The remainder of the project has been designed and is under construction. The first phase of the project had an aggressive schedule and included the retrofit of a space that was being used for storage. This part of the project is located in the basement of an old building. The demolition effort was extensive and challenging because of the need to clear old abandoned piping, ductwork, and equipment as well as to identify and modify utilities that are still in use. In order to overcome this challenge, frequent site visits and investigations were an indispensable tool during the design and construction phases. In order to meet the project time table and produce a quality end product, the collaboration and buy-in of the entire team (owner, designers, end users, and construction team) was essential in that it made quick changes, corrections, and adjustments possible. A new mechanical room was carved out adjacent to the lab to house a new 100% outside air handling unit to serve the space. Due to the adjacency of the mechanical space, and the location of the main ductwork inside the lab and lecture space, maintaining appropriate sound levels in the space was a challenge. Sound attenuators used were used in the supply air mains. In addition, air balance and control strategies were implemented so that the lecture area could be “dialed down,” while keeping the lab area ventilation at an acceptable level and thus maintaining the sound level in the lecture area at an acceptable level. One of the goals of this renovation is to obtain LEED certification. At this point, we are on track toward meeting the LEED goal. Strategies used toward meeting the LEED goal include using setbacks for the temperature setpoints and ventilation levels when the lab is not in use, and using appropriate zone temperature controls.

Harvey: We designed a replacement lab for a hospital where the existing lab had poor air circulation and a troublesome deionized water system. The airflow and issues with wasted time from “dirty” deionized water came up over and over in the design meetings. We had the benefit of starting from scratch with the new lab, and while the project is still under construction, we believe the users will be very happy with the results. To make the end users more comfortable with the design solutions, we spent time drilling down in the details of the systems they were most concerned about and walked through the submittals with them to be sure we would meet their end goals.

Cousins: I recently worked on the New Frick Chemistry Laboratory at Princeton University. This project had stringent energy goals as well as aspiring to be a place where the best science could be conducted. The energy goals were met through the use of high-efficiency hoods in all research labs, effective management of hoods in teaching labs, the use of chilled beams and operable windows in offices, cascading air use from the offices to the atrium to the lab, and significant heat recovery. The building is designed to be daylit in many locations but is also well-insulated and shaded. The atrium shading is provided through a photovoltaic shading array.

The 5 million sq-ft, LEED Platinum King Abdullah University of Science and Technology laboratory project in Saudia Arabia (facilitated by Seattle-based Affiliated Engineers Inc.) won R&D Magazine's 2011 Lab of the Year honors. Courtesy: Sam Fentress PhotoEriksen: The Molecular Engineering and Sciences Building on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. We designed a naturally ventilated and cooled office space immediately adjacent to the lab program area. There were concerns about exfiltration of air from the lab zone contaminating the office zone. We performed CFD (computational fluid dynamics) analysis to demonstrate that under extreme exterior wind conditions and open windows in the office zone, we could still contain emissions in the lab zone. For the same project, the program included electron microscopes that are extremely sensitive to high air velocity near the instruments. We used active chilled beams with minimal airflow to provide the cooling capacity for the rooms with the microscopes.

CSE: What are some common missteps that engineers might make on a laboratory project? Any lessons that you’ve learned?

Dean EriksenEriksen: Missteps include: The design is too specific to the stated program, lack of flexibility in the system design; lack of adequate standby power distribution capacity for equipment zones; inadequate coordination between equipment service requirements and actual design; and sustainable strategies don’t withstand the scrutiny of value engineering. Lessons include: Develop numerous design options early; evaluate options with data generated from modeling and analytical tools based on project specific metrics. Avoid deferred decisions, make good decisions based on project specific data, and avoid waste-generating decision changes.

Patino: Some of the common missteps in lab design are: Wrong assumptions on equipment heat load (high or low); no provisions to maintain the labs negative in relation to adjacent nonlab spaces; too low or too high air change rate; no planning or provisions for future needs; not enough communication between lab users and the design/construction team; ventilation schemes that could lead to possible cross-contamination between labs and other spaces; no consideration for dedicated hood exhaust stream and safety requirements (i.e., perchloric acid hoods); no clear definition of BSL levels for containment labs; use of materials that are not suitable for chemical applications that are used for decontamination; not enough definition of required lab utilities; not enough consideration for emergency eye wash/shower fixture requirements; not enough consideration of the impact that a lab has on existing utilities; and not enough consideration of acceptable control schemes.

CSE: When working in labs outside the U.S., what differences, challenges, or best practices have you observed?

Eriksen: Be aware of appropriate building codes, contractor’s expected level of detail in the construction documents, engineering units, and availability of specified products and materials in the region of construction. Develop collaborative partnerships with firms familiar with working in area of project.

Patino: When working in European projects, clean room/lab classification requirements and adjacencies can be more stringent. Also, when working in projects for less developed countries (i.e., former Soviet Union states), the level of sophistication and knowledge can be less that the standards used in the U.S.

CSE: What factors do you need to take into account when designing building automation systems and controls for a laboratory?

Cousins: Similar problems occur in labs and other building types. There are usually very specific design intentions that have to be properly communicated through the design process and then realized in the commissioning stage. This is not always easy to do; a good deal of time can elapse between design and commissioning, and quite often the people involved on both the design and the client side will be different. The key to solving this is excellent documentation.

Patino: Concerns include safety, budget, energy use, and flexibility.

Eriksen: Know there will be a high level of integration between the systems. Align the complexity of system design with the sophistication of the maintenance approach and staff. Document comprehensive and precise sequences of operation.

Harvey: Labs often have issues with airflow caused by HVAC systems that didn’t have the flexibility to adapt to changing equipment. The systems need to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in outside air requirements, heat gain, and changes in airflow and pressurization over time. Control sequences should be clearly detailed in the construction documents and in the shop drawings so that there is a clear understanding of how the system is supposed to operate and the end user will know when part of the system is not performing properly. When modifications are made over the years, the HVAC controls sequences and loads should be reviewed and modified as required to negate the cumulative effect of small changes.

CSE: What are some common problems you encounter when working on such systems?

Patino: The most common problem is the conflict between degree of automation, the utility requirements, and the energy use. That is, a lab can be safely set up to provide the maximum requirements for constant supply, ventilation, room exhaust, and hood exhaust. However, such a system requires a large utility infrastructure and the maximum energy use. Providing controls associated with variable volume, energy recovery, setback, etc., can help reduce utility/energy consumption. The use of sophisticated control schemes is an important step toward achieving energy and utility savings. However, there are capital cost impacts that must be considered. Another consideration is that a system that is manually balanced may have a limited degree of flexibility and may not be able to accommodate changes.

Harvey: So often, in the rush to get construction completed, the HVAC controls programming gets done in a vacuum and doesn’t get thoroughly tested and run through its cycles before occupancy. Controls programming, testing, and HVAC test and balance are usually the last mechanical-related tasks to get completed on a project, but they are critical to the long-term comfort and safety of a lab. Early discussions in the construction meetings should be used to set intermediate deadlines of all trades so the systems can be properly set up prior to move-in.

Eriksen: Commissioning is not executed to the extent necessary to demonstrate and document all modes of operation. Insufficient training is performed to develop highly functioning operators.

CSE: What are some common project owner misconceptions about automation and control systems?

Eriksen: The first cost of such systems is higher than conventional commercial buildings. They are complex and therefore demand more operations and maintenance resources. Energy optimization is an ongoing process, continuous programmatic changes in the building influence energy performance, and the BAS should be configured to monitor and alert operators to these changes in performance.

Cousins: As with other building types, there is often a sense that once the project is commissioned the work is done and no further review is necessary. Our experience is that systems must be closely monitored to make sure that everything continues to operate both safely and in as energy-efficient a manner as the design intended.

Patino: The benefits of a control system that allows for reduced utility infrastructure, reduced energy use, and increased flexibility are not always evident to the owner.

CSE: What challenges do you have when implementing NFPA 45-2011: Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals?

Patino: The main challenge is to educate the client as to the code requirements that result when the limitations of the type and quantities of chemicals that can be stored in the space are exceeded.

CSE: Which aspect of codes and standards has in your experience provided the most challenges or obstacles?

Eriksen: Specific interpretation of some national codes by local jurisdictions varies and can cause changes in the design late in the process.

Patino: All codes and standards associated with lab design present some design challenges. Some of the most common: the use of hazardous materials that exceed the exempt amounts indicated in the code; meeting the requirements of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals when designing animal labs; meeting the DHHS, CDC, NIH, and ARS requirements for BSL containment laboratories; and meeting the requirements for ANSI AIHA Z9.5 Laboratory Ventilation requirements.

CSE: Can you name a recent challenge you encountered in this area, and how you worked to overcome it?

Eriksen: The overall area of a penthouse containing all mechanical equipment was deemed an occupied level of the building. This forced us to extend the shaft walls up to the underside of the penthouse roof and forced us to add fire/smoke dampers in all the supply and exhaust ducts penetrating this shaft in the penthouse. This was in addition to all the fire/smoke dampers installed at the lower levels of the building.

Patino: I performed a study to evaluate the capacity of an existing HVAC system in order to accommodate the addition of a lab to the building. In the process of the evaluation, I found some aspects of the existing lab building that do not comply with current codes. I reported my findings to the owner and made some recommendations as to paths that may be considered to bring those aspects up to code.

CSE: What’s the most important factor to keep in mind when wrestling with codes/standards issues in a laboratory?

Harvey: The codes are written to provide a safe working environment for lab personnel and spaces surrounding the lab. We have to remember that codes represent the minimum requirement, and how we choose to implement and meet these requirements should not be taken lightly. Since labs are individually unique, the codes cannot prescribe requirements for each situation and design professionals must use their judgment and experience to find solutions to meet the demands of the space while maintaining the intent of the code for personal safety.

Eriksen: Issues relevant to the life safety of the occupants and the emergency response teams must be resolved.

CSE: What’s the one factor most commonly overlooked in electrical and power systems in laboratories?

Tom DivineDivine: Achieving the owner’s long-term goals. Flexibility is often the watchword in laboratory design, and in academic research laboratories it’s a necessity. The owner will use those facilities to attract researchers whose experimental techniques aren’t known—and may not yet even exist—at design time, so those labs need to be able to support a variety of activities. Owners of production labs—like attestation facilities that verify the quality of a product before it can be shipped—don’t value flexibility nearly so highly, and focus instead on first costs and time to occupancy.

Patino: Overlooked electrical requirements can be those for equipment that has intensive power requirements, such as low-temperature freezers, centrifuges, autoclaves, etc.

Eriksen: Adequate standby power distribution capacity for the research equipment. Proper receptacle types for the equipment.

CSE: What types of products do you most commonly specify in a laboratory, and why? Describe the UPS system, backup generators, etc.

Divine: The UPSs and backup generators are generally similar to equipment that’s installed in other mission-critical applications, like healthcare and data centers. Surface-mounted raceway assemblies are the most common item that’s peculiar to laboratories. Where the ability to quickly reconfigure more power-intensive equipment is important—in particular, in laboratories where a lot of demonstrations are going on—overhead busway, similar to what you might find in a data center or on a factory floor, is an effective solution.

Eriksen: Redundant switchgear or switchboards, emergency/standby diesel generators, automatic transfer switches, power distribution panels, branch panelboards, UPS, battery racks, receptacles, data outlets and cabling, surface mounted raceway, cable tray.

CSE: How have sustainability requirements affected how you approach electrical systems?

Divine: Lighting and lighting controls are the systems most affected by sustainability requirements. There are substantial energy savings from just making sure that most of the lights are off in unoccupied areas. Laboratories often have nonstandard occupancy schedules, so the control systems have to be more flexible, and more complex, than in other types of spaces.

Eriksen: The measurement and verification credit in the LEED program influences the power distribution configuration to optimize the method of energy monitoring. Lighting controls are more sophisticated to comply with energy codes. High-performance transformers affect short circuit ratings of equipment. Heat recovery chillers and heat pumps frequently need special overcurrent protection to deal with short circuit current ratings.

CSE: When commissioning electrical/power systems in labs, what issues do you face?

Divine: The usual suspects generally show up. Any devices with field-selectable settings—like circuit breakers, automatic transfer switches, or motor overloads—can be configured incorrectly. The emergency power system’s sequence of operations may not match the specification. Lighting controls may be programmed improperly, or not programmed at all. Some receptacles will have the hot and neutral lines reversed. Systems with communications between equipment from multiple vendors can be particularly troublesome.

Eriksen: Issues include assurance that all modes of failure are tested, and proving that the results of the coordination study and subsequent settings and operation of the overcurrent devices are per the design.

CSE: How do you balance the need for reliable power with other considerations (i.e., sustainability)?

Divine: The reliability of the electrical system will normally be balanced against first costs and directed by specific owner requirements. The owner typically has a list of functions he wants to maintain when the utility fails and a redundancy level that he expects from his standby generation system. Those considerations will typically drive the size and number of generators up, while the cost of the standby system will drive them down. In the end, the owner makes a value judgment, in light of the design team’s recommendations, about the trade-offs between reliability and cost.

Eriksen: As with any decision process there needs to be an establishment of priorities, determination of cost, as well as an outline of performance and functional criteria. Together, the engineer can lead the owner to decisions that result in a balance between multiple design considerations.

CSE: What trends and technologies have affected changes in fire detection/suppression systems in laboratories?

Patino: When using a chemical suppression system, the chemical suppression agent must be approved for the use and must be the proper agent for the chemicals used at the lab.

CSE: What are some important factors to consider when designing a fire and life safety system in a laboratory facility? What things often get overlooked?

Patino: An important factor that can be overlooked is making sure that special fire protection requirements, such as those for perchloric hoods, are included in the design.

CSE: In specialty facilities, like vivariums, what issues have you come across?

Patino: Overcoming the detrimental effect that visual and audio alarms can have on some of the animals.

CSE: What sustainability issues concern your laboratory clients?

Divine: Energy efficiency heads the list. High ventilation requirements for laboratory spaces translate directly into high operating costs, and owners are motivated to reduce those costs.

Harvey: Energy consumption seems to always rise to the top. Labs with multiple hoods can cause a higher than normal demand for heating and cooling, which can be taxing to existing infrastructure. The good news is that mainstream solutions to reduce energy consumption are available and are improving all the time as more and more focus is placed on sustainability. We’ve found it’s best to identify the legitimate options early and get buy-in from the team before getting to deep into the design phase. Then the team can focus on how to optimize the selected systems and make them as cost-effective as possible.

Patino: Those issues include energy use and LEED requirements.

Cousins: Energy use and water use are both top-of-mind issues for lab clients. The buildings tend to be very energy-intensive and also very large water users. Issues of indoor air quality are also important and are frequently entwined with safety requirements.

CSE: Do you think sustainability ever takes a back seat to other considerations (i.e., electrical system reliability, cost efficiency, ventilation, etc.)?

Patino: Cost, safety, and reliability are very important concerns, but I do not think that sustainability takes a “back seat” to those considerations. This is because the solutions to cost, safety, reliability, and sustainability can complement each other when used with common sense in a holistic project approach.

Harvey: Labs are demanding and utilities and the failure of the ventilation system, water systems, gases, or power have a huge impact on the success and function of the space. Sustainable components may become limited, but some can be implemented without having a negative effect on the utilities or undue cost burden to the project.

Cousins: Energy and water efficiency should always take a back seat to safety considerations. Sustainability, in its broadest sense, is about buildings that fulfill their social and societal purpose in the most economic and environmentally advantageous way. If the science in a lab is poor, then this is the biggest sustainability failure possible.

Divine: Sustainability is balanced against a number of issues. In laboratories, ventilation requirements push the design toward intensive energy use. As with all types of facilities, the installed cost of highly efficient systems tends to push the design toward less sustainable alternatives. Organizational and statutory requirements for sustainability often have an escape clause related to first costs. Federal regulations, for example, call for new buildings to exceed ASHRAE 90.1-2004 by 30%, but only to the extent that it’s lifecycle cost-effective.

CSE: Are you seeing increased demand for sustainable building features? Has the economy affected this?

Harvey: Yes; while the recession has put project budgets under the microscope, the sustainable building environment and specifically the need to reduce energy remains as a project goal. The global push has been very beneficial in MEP system product development and testing documentation so designers have more choices in how they can reduce energy usage with less complicated systems than in years past.

Divine: The demand for sustainability has been explosive over the last decade. That demand seems to have leveled off in recent years, though it hasn’t abated at all. The economy has been a factor, particularly with regard to municipal projects, which rely heavily on property taxes to finance construction. Economic conditions have also pushed project decisions away from new construction and into renovations, where the requirements for sustainability are often lower.

Patino: I am seeing increased demand for sustainable building features because of energy savings and because owners want to be seen as doing the right thing for the community. Also, owners feel that the cost of energy will continue to rise over time, so energy-efficient system have a payback.

CSE: Do you see retrofitting existing structures to be more sustainable as especially challenging?

Divine: It depends on the structure, and on the details of the project. Older buildings may not have adequate horizontal spaces to readily accommodate the MEP-intensive systems to support laboratory spaces. For a partial renovation, the requirement for continuous occupancy of the rest of the facility will tend to limit options for wholesale replacement of HVAC equipment and systems. On the other hand, a retrofit project starts off with a definite sustainability advantage: It avoids the environmental cost of creating a new structure.

Patino: Yes, because the construction features (envelope, HVAC, lighting, etc.) of existing structures tend to be less efficient.

Cousins: The biggest challenge in retrofit, if there is no hazardous material, is space taken for new services and program. The sustainability advantage is the reduction in the amount of new material used, or differently stated, in the ability to reduce the embodied energy/carbon required by the new project. Retrofit to improve energy and water consumption is not necessarily difficult—it depends very much on the current conditions, the way the energy use is distributed, and where the inefficiencies are (prime movers, heat/cool sources, or distribution and terminals). We have done a recent project where there was such a significant degree of over-ventilation that it was possible to reduce energy use by half without changing system distribution and making only minor adjustments at the central systems.

CSE: What unique requirements do laboratory HVAC systems have that you wouldn’t encounter on other structures?

Englewood, CO-based CH2M Hill has consulted on various complex laboratory projects for Carnegie Mellon University, including the Bernard Laboratory, which seeks to develop photovoltaic and photogeneration technology. Courtesy: CH2M Hill.Patino: Some of the requirements outlined below can be encountered in some industrial applications (pharmaceutical, microelectronics, etc.), but they are the requirements most prevalent in labs: 100% makeup air, minimum air change rates, fume hood exhaust systems, room exhaust, laboratory utility requirements, pure water and lab gasses.

Harvey: Labs are particularly sensitive to environmental changes. Noise, vibration, airflow, temperature, humidity, and lighting all need to be carefully designed and installed to fit the needs of the space. What appear to be minor equipment changes during the submittal phase could potentially lead to system performance or flexibility issues in the future. Laboratory spaces are all unique, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the systems that serve them. Ever-changing lab equipment and lab processes make each project a challenge and at the same time interesting to work on because it takes creativity to come up with a cost-effective solution that’s flexible, constructible, and meets the needs of the users.

Cousins: Tight pressurization requirements and very tight temperature and humidity requirements are specific to labs and other specialist buildings such as hospitals, galleries, and archives.

CSE: Test facilities often dictate that a laboratory’s ventilation system contain advanced capabilities to preserve integrity of samples and keep a stable environment. How do you maintain this delicate balance?

Harvey: Understanding the workflow process and specifically the process used to prepare and process samples is critical. Interviewing the lab personnel and watching their process will help guide the design of the HVAC system. This should occur early in the design process and be reviewed throughout the design to ensure the team clearly understands the needs and desires of the end user. Small modifications to the systems can often make a big difference in the overall success of the project while not adding any additional cost.

Patino: A few strategies to achieve this goal would be through the use of laminar hoods, biosafety cabinets, glove boxes, cold rooms, freezers, refrigerators, and controls.

CSE: Describe a challenging indoor air quality system you worked on recently. What were the challenges and solutions?

Patino: I worked on a fairly small lab with a multitude of hoods. The challenge is to maintain the exhaust air paths free from turbulent flow at the hoods caused by the large amount of supply air to the room. The solution is to use large laminar flow diffusers and to place them carefully in the space as far as possible from the hood sashes.

CSE: How can automated features and remote HVAC system control benefit laboratory clients?

Harvey: Remote monitoring and control of HVAC systems can benefit owners by reducing the need for full-time on-site facilities operators to monitor and log the operation of the systems. Lab controls can also be set up to reset space temperature and airflow settings during unoccupied periods while still maintaining appropriate pressurization to adjacent spaces. Lab hoods and their sash position can be monitored remotely for proper position during unoccupied times and offer some insight to facility operators on how to reduce operating costs. Alarms can also be monitored and logged remotely to alert personnel of potentially unsafe conditions.

Patino: They can provide tight humidity and temperature controls, they can save energy, and, when used in conjunction with energy recovery systems, they can reduce the size of the utility infrastructure (chilled water, hot water, steam, etc.)

CSE: What are the most important factors to consider when working on such a system?

Harvey: Keep in mind that labs are dynamic environments and find the balance between the design solution for the current configuration and a system that will provide flexibility over the lifetime of the lab as processes, personnel, and equipment change. Designers should also clearly identify HVAC control sequences and safety devices in labs, how they are intended to be used, and their limitations. These will help owners make informed decisions as the design evolves and value engineering opportunities arise during the construction phase.

Patino: Factors include safety, reliability, sustainability, and cost impacts versus payback.

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