Life scientists are at the forefront of medical research and development. They need well-design laboratories and educational centers to thrive in their work. Unfortunately, the current use of life science buildings is creating sustainability challenges. Advancing with sustainable building for life sciences can help offset the emissions created by powerful equipment and HVAC systems.
While professionals spend more time in their workspaces, emissions deriving from lighting, cooling, machines, and more bring adverse environmental effects. Green construction professionals can renovate labs, decreasing their generation of atmospheric and surface-level pollution. Environmental engineers and architects are developing new sustainability trends that builders can apply to life science structures.
Installing Renewable Energy Systems
In 2020, nearly 79% of America’s energy supply came from greenhouse gas-emitting sources. Life science labs access significant quantities of the national supply for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. These fuels also support lights, mechanical equipment, computers, and other electronics.
U.S. labs consume about 1.2 billion square feet of space. They use up to five times more energy than conventional buildings, degrading their sustainability. Builders can decrease the emissions related to high-energy life science centers by installing renewable energy systems.
Photovoltaic solar panels produce electricity without releasing greenhouse gases. Builders can install panels on a life science building’s roof, decreasing its reliance on the conventional energy grid. Structures with solar energy have significantly smaller carbon footprints than other buildings.
Adding Energy-Efficient Devices
Builders can further decrease a lab’s environmental effects by pairing renewable energy systems with energy-efficient devices. A significant portion of a building’s energy use comes from its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Building designers and facility managers can decrease HVAC-related emissions by installing a smart thermostat.
Smart thermostats autonomously regulate indoor temperatures, limiting unnecessary energy use. They access weather readings through a Wi-Fi connection and make corresponding changes to indoor temperatures to increase efficiency. Additionally, the thermostats use motion detection sensors, turning the system off in vacant rooms to conserve resources.
The systems also increase the efficiency of indoor ventilation. Adequate ventilation technology is essential to workers’ safety, decreasing their exposure to toxins and contaminants. Construction professionals can use smart thermostats to achieve proper indoor ventilation while reducing atmospheric degradation.
They can also install light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, decreasing the energy use of lighting systems. LED lights use 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs. They also last 25 times longer, reducing landfill waste over time.
The energy efficiency of a life science lab is directly related to its carbon footprint. Buildings also possess a water footprint, measuring the efficiency of their water uses. Builders can reduce resource exploitation by constructing sustainable devices for water conservation.
Building a Rainwater Harvesting System
Construction professionals can shrink a life science building’s water footprint by installing a rainwater harvesting system. Labs are water-intensive, using the resource for testing, drug discovery, and more. Rainwater harvesting systems decrease a building’s reliance on the city water supply by repurposing stormwater.
When it rains, the harvesting system collects runoff in containers. Next, it directly transfers the non-potable water to toilets, irrigation systems, washing machines, and more. Then, it purifies additional stormwater and pumps it into faucets and fountains for consumption.
Decreasing a lab’s reliance on the conventional water supply reduces resource exploitation and utility costs. Installing rainwater harvesting systems also improves the longevity of a building by reducing roof damage. Rather than letting water collect on a building’s rooftop, drains and gutters can feed into a collection tank.
Before installing a rainwater harvesting system, construction professionals may repair inefficient and damaged roofs, decreasing leaks and other forms of destruction. Increasing the stability of a roof is essential to meeting OSHA standards. And needless to say, leaks and other structurally degrading effects can alter the effectiveness of test results in a life science lab.
Using Modular and 3D Building Techniques
Builders can further enhance a lab’s sustainability by using modular and 3D construction techniques. Modular building occurs off-site in a manufacturing facility. Rather than transporting machines, workers, and materials to a building site each day, the sustainable construction method houses the necessary elements until the job is complete.
Modularly constructed buildings can also use recycled materials, nearly eliminating on-site waste from material production. Rather than throwing away excess wood or metal, professionals carry them over to the next project. The structures are also made for energy efficiency, creating an airtight seal to reduce HVAC emissions.
3D-printed buildings or features also increase the sustainability of a lab. The manufacturing procedure relies on efficient, locally sourced materials like clay and concrete. The machines are also more accurate than human builders, reducing errors and material waste.
Additionally, 3D printers use less energy than the conventional building process. Over time, they decrease construction-related emissions. Creating life science buildings with eco-friendly materials, practices, and systems can benefit the environment and builders.
Sustainable Building for Life Sciences
When builders create sustainable labs, they can save money and time. Sustainable buildings for life sciences — including energy-efficient HVAC, rainwater harvesting systems, and renewable energy sources — can offset the power these buildings need to run.
Finally, newer technologies make building techniques more effective for the designer and the client. Using modular and 3D building practices may increase a construction professional’s profits by increasing their cost-efficiency. They may increase their customer appeal by delivering thoughtfully constructed buildings to eco-minded consumers.
In case you have any questions on Sustainable Building for Life Sciences or any other design requirements, feel free to contact us.
Evelyn Long is an experienced writer and editor with a subject matter specialization in real estate and construction. Passionate about connecting data with the human element of housing insights. Co-founder of Renovated, a web magazine for the home industry.