January/February 2018 • www.cemag.us 7 CLEAN APPLICATIONS
Controlling Ventilation Rates at
University Research Laboratories
Laboratory buildings consume more than half of the total Northwestern University (NU) electricity demand, and a large part of this is for laboratory building ventilation systems.
Over the past decade, NU has been installing a ventilation optimization system in laboratory rooms
which dynamically controls ventilation rates to
reduce energy use, provide a better indoor environment for occupants and monitor space conditions
along with occupant behavior.
University labs = half of total electricity demand
Northwestern University (NU) has 15 science
research buildings on two campuses. This space
allows about $650 million in sponsored research
activities. Approximately 5,000 NU researchers
were registered to do wet bench research in NU
laboratories in 2017, and a large number of undergraduate students rotated through the undergraduate teaching labs on the Evanston campus.
In 2016, the laboratory spaces consumed almost
118 million kilowatt-hours (k Wh) of electricity,
which, at a cost of $0.08/k Wh, amounts to close
to $10 million. This is about half of the total
Northwestern University electricity demand. A
large part of this electricity demand is made up of
the laboratory building ventilation systems’ electri-
cal power needs.
Ventilation in the science laboratories and vivaria serves four main objectives: safe breathing air for
occupants; suitable temperature and humidity for
research activities; dilution and transport of equipment heat loads; and spot exhaust for vented enclosures, including cage racks for animals and fume
hoods or snorkels for chemistry.
Whereas a ventilation system designed for an
office building may recirculate most of its air and
only supply a small percentage of fresh air, architectural and building codes require that laboratory
rooms and vivaria use only fresh outside air for
ventilation. This design difference explains why
laboratories require so much more energy to operate. A large amount of energy is required to supply,
heat, cool, condition, filter, distribute, and exhaust
this air in laboratory buildings.
The traditional laboratory design approach is
to proactively ventilate all the time in anticipation of a chemical spill or release. This approach
The laboratory ventilation system makes up the majority of electricity demand.
Configuration of Aircuity
system installed in
a lab building.
of Aircuity Inc.