KJ Tait

Sustainable Strategies for Reducing Energy Consumption in Life Science Laboratories

29 August 2023



Life science laboratories play a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of biological processes, developing new medical treatments, and exploring ground breaking scientific discoveries.  However, these facilities are often energy-intensive, with complex equipment, stringent environmental controls and round-the-clock operation.  As the world faces growing concerns about energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, it becomes crucial to address the energy consumption of life science laboratories.   


Factors Driving Energy Consumption 


Laboratory Equipment: Life science laboratories are equipped with a multitude of energy-demanding instruments such as centrifuges, incubators, freezers and high-performance microscopes.  These devices are essential for research but can consume significant amounts of electricity. 


Climate Control: Maintaining precise environmental conditions, including temperature, humidity, and air quality, is crucial to many experiments.  As a result, labs often require energy-intensive heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to ensure consistent conditions. 


24/7 Operations: Many experiments require continuous monitoring and data collection, leading to laboratories operating around the clock.  This constant activity contributes to higher energy consumption. 


Safety Considerations: Labs often need to adhere to strict safety protocols, including maintaining negative air pressure and employing fume hoods for hazardous substances.  These measures can increase energy consumption due to the need for specialized ventilation systems. 


Sustainable Strategies for Energy Reduction 


Energy Efficient Equipment: Investing in energy efficient laboratory equipment can significantly reduce energy consumption.  Modern instruments are designed to be more energy-efficient without compromising performance.  Tenants should prioritise purchasing equipment with high energy-efficiency ratings. 


Smart Sensors and Automation: Implementing smart sensors and automation systems can optimise energy use.  These systems can adjust climate control settings based on occupancy, experiment requirements, and time of day, ensuring energy is not wasted when not needed. 


Lab Layout and Design: Thoughtful lab design can optimise space utilisation and minimise energy waste.  Positioning equipment strategically and utilising natural light sources can reduce the need for excessive artificial lighting and HVAC usage. 


Energy Recovery Systems: Energy recovery systems can capture and reuse heat generated by laboratory equipment or ventilation systems.  This heat can be used to warm incoming fresh air, reducing the load on heating systems. 


Occupancy Sensors: Installing occupancy sensors in labs and support areas can automatically turn off lights and equipment when no one is present, preventing unnecessary energy consumption. 


Regular Maintenance: Scheduled maintenance and calibration of equipment ensure their optimal performance, which can lead to reduced energy usage.  Well maintained equipment operates more efficiently, consuming less energy. 


Education and Awareness: Raising awareness among laboratory staff about energy saving practices and the environmental impact of their actions can foster a culture of energy conservation. 


Energy Monitoring and Analysis: Installing energy monitoring systems can help laboratories track and analyse their energy consumption patterns. This data can identify areas of inefficiency and guide targeted energy saving efforts. 


Life Science Design at KJ Tait


We are currently engaged in schemes across the UK, wherein we are implementing best practice strategies to ensure our designs are energy-efficient.  Drawing from our extensive experience in both new construction and existing buildings, our energy database has energy benchmarks for labs spanning from approximately 200 kWh/m² to 1,600 kWh/m² for older laboratories employing conventional air systems without heat recovery. 


In order to achieve the lower end of these benchmarks, we are utilising energy modelling software, specifically Apache HVAC.  This advanced tool enables us to evaluate the anticipated energy consumption during operational use accurately.  We can also gauge the potential impact of design modifications or adjustments to the operational profile, ensuring our approach aligns with the most efficient energy practices. 


Our processes go further that this with effective handovers planned and monthly in use energy reporting which will review energy bills, sub meter readings and BMS settings remotely.   We consider this to be essential to ensure that buildings can achieve the energy use intensity target once in operation