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Common Challenges and Opportunities for Creating a Sustainable Lab

Sustainability is a topic of conversation in a variety of different circles, with many laboratory managers feeling a particular need to focus in this direction. The unique needs and requirements of today’s modern lab can translate into a serious negative impact on the environment due to excessive electrical and water consumption. A green laboratory doesn’t come without a price, however — and lab managers often find themselves attempting to balance between budget and environmental impact. Fortunately, there are specific actions that you can take within your lab to lessen your ecological footprint.

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability can be defined as “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level”, but when applied to the environment it most often means that you’re attempting to meet present needs without compromising those of future generations. The concept of sustainability defies glib definitions, but carries implications for economic health and vitality as well as human and ecological systems. Sustainability is based upon the premise that natural resources are finite, and should be carefully used and protected while keeping the long-term consequences of our actions in mind.

Laboratory Impact on the Environment

One figure that is commonly cited is the fact that laboratories tend to utilize four times or more the resources of a similarly-sized office building. Between hoods, additional ventilation, excess cooling and heating requirements and lasers — labs in general tend to draw a significant amount of energy for daily operation. However, it may be that relatively small changes in human behavior can have a considerable positive impact on the energy draw simply by keeping a few basic tenets in mind:

  • Look for ways to control electricity usage, such as adding automatic lighting controls and being careful to grab supplies from a freezer quickly instead of leaving the door open.
  • Layout your lab in such a way that you make efficient use of space, and allow for shared resources whenever possible.
  • Maintain efficient ventilation by updating fume hoods and other critical pieces of equipment. SEFA-compliant fume hoods ensure that your lab is not only protecting the environment, but also your staff.
  • Optimal building operation leads to a more sustainable laboratory by adding recycling options throughout your space for safe disposal of waste.

These small steps add up to big changes over the course of a year, and can be instituted without a great deal of trouble or upset from staff.

Create an Energy Management Plan

Defining your ideal energy usage, and consistently looking for ways to maximize your usage can be as straightforward as shifting how often the air is exchanged within the building. While you must be cautious to ensure that laboratory workers are always breathing safe air, there are down times during the day when there are fewer people in the building when air exchanges can be scaled back dramatically. The reduced heating and cooling, as well as cutback in air circulation, create a compelling picture for change over the course of a year or more. There will be some upfront cost to upgrade systems or building infrastructure, but the payoff comes with a more sustainable and habitable workspace.

Learn more about creating a sustainable lab when you work with the experts at OnePointe Solutions, where you will find everything you need to outfit your lab. From casework to fume hoods and flooring, OnePointe Solutions offers a range of colors and styles to meet your needs. Contact us today at 866-612-7312.

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