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Universities, community colleges and other public institutions are working on an increasingly shrinking budget. We in the design community need to adapt, while providing our clients the best and highest-quality projects working within these tight budgetary constraints. Many institutions think they need to sacrifice sustainability, cutting-edge technology or high-end design to remain within their desired monetary limits.

Starting with sustainability basics, lab designers explore building envelope and siting to maximize daylight to reduce lighting load. Siting also helps to reduce glare and HVAC loads. HVAC systems, the largest energy users in a building are discussed in terms of “right-sizing,” maximum efficiency and highly efficient mechanical spaces for maintenance. Proper sizing, spacing and installation of plumbing and process utilities allows not only for increased efficiency, but ensuring access to these systems allows for maintenance over the lifetime of a building. Using Energy Star-rated equipment and minimizing equipment plug loads greatly reduces electrical loads on buildings and increases building efficiencies. Efficient lab design through the use of flexible casework, modules and effective lab zoning will create user-friendly, as well as efficient, lab spaces.

A key component of cost-effective high-performance lab buildings is continuous and early cost planning. With the use of highly experienced construction managers or costing experts, the design team can gain an understanding of designs decisions and their cost impact at schematic design, where their impact is minimal. Effective cost modeling and benchmarking tools make every team stronger in deciding on cost impacts that positively affect design.

Out-of-the-box ideas include CFD modeling to lower HVAC costs and pinpoint hold and cold spots, reducing fan speed and fume hood cfm, and use of chilled beams in lowering HVAC system size.

Bioscience 2 on the Univ. of Colorado Anschutz Medical School Campus is a 112,000-sf, four-story speculative lab building. It’s on track for LEED Gold and will complete construction in July of this year. Bioscience 2 represents a unique project structure for the university, as it’s the first time they have come together in a public-private partnership with the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority (FRA). Bioscience 2 contains a cleanroom suite, as well as a new Bioengineering Program, mass spectrometer labs and a cord blood bank.

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The second case study is for Univ. of Nebraska Lincoln, Behlen Laboratory. This is a 20,500-gsf, three-story renovation of a 1960’s era lab building scheduled for completion in December 2015. The vision for Behlen Lab is to recapitalize a facility that will provide flexible, multidisciplinary, economical and, yet, very high-quality research spaces with enhanced standardized utilities. The labs in Behlen are designed to flex from chemistry to biology and physics. In addition to these programs, the building houses one of the most powerful laser research systems on campus.

Both projects posed significant challenges: budget, design constraints and sustainability goals. Innovative design elements in both projects make these facilities truly sustainable labs, with baseline standards significantly more efficient than ASHRAE 90.1. Both labs use a module system to ensure maximum efficiency and flexibility in design.

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Alicia Pandimos Maurer is a Lab Planner and Project Architect with CRB. Pandimos Maurer is an architect with more than 14 years planning. Her specialty is lab planning with a focus on sustainability and flexibility. Chris Ertl, AIA, LEED-AP BD&C is a Senior Lab Planner, Project Manager and Project Architect with CRB. Ertl is a lab planner with more than 19 years of experience in architectural design and lab planning and has a detailed understanding of advanced lab concepts and the resulting impact on systems.

Extra: Can sustainable design be cost effective?

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