The Science of Lab Design

By Bob Laurence, Manager of Energy Efficiency, Eversource on 8/24/2017

Northeastern University’s new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC) features 234,000 square feet of space that houses a vibrant interdisciplinary research community. The six-story complex is mixed with labs and classrooms organized around one central atrium.

It’s also a really cool building. And, you don’t need a microscope to see the state-of-the-art design and energy-efficient technologies. 

The university worked collaboratively with Eversource and the design team to identify energy-saving measures and technical expertise to jump start the project. Then, they explored financial resources available through the Mass Save program. Armed with energy-efficient recommendations, architecture firm Payette, engineering firm Arup, and general contractor Suffolk Construction then worked together to bring this stunning building to life.

In fact, ISEC is designed to use 75 percent less energy than a typical intensive research building. Let’s uncover the science of this innovative lab design and its technologies.

• Climate responsive building envelope – The complex is equipped with triple-glazed windows, which reduce glass condensation and prevent heat loss. ISEC also features sun-shading aluminum “fins” to maximize daylight penetration while minimizing heat gain. This basically means a huge comfort boost for students and faculty inside the building—while the university saves on energy costs.

• Variable Air Volume (VAV) fume hoods – While a fume hood may be the most important safety feature in a lab, it’s also a big energy user. Labs use tremendous volumes of exhaust to flush out potentially hazardous fumes. Northeastern added high-performance VAV hoods, which exhaust the amount of air required to maintain a safe velocity setpoint. They also reduce the hood’s supply fan speed and maintain the desired temperature and humidity. Simply put, VAVs maximize safety while minimizing energy consumption.

• Enhanced airside systems – Many labs have a dedicated HVAC system, which can often be expensive to operate. ISEC boasts a cascade system that recovers conditioned air from its offices and atrium, then transfers the air to the labs to save energy and costs. In fact, an approximate 50 percent reduction in energy use over baseline building standards is expected, thanks to this highefficiency cascade approach to recirculating warm and cooled air.  

• Occupancy-based airflow controls – Many older labs with low fume-hood counts operate at 10 air changes per hour (ACH) or above, 24 hours a day. Northeastern’s new VAV fume hoods and added airflow controls will reduce its lab ventilation rates from 6 ACH to 4 ACH whenever labs and equipment room spaces are detected to be unoccupied.  

As an added bonus, ISEC is also on track for LEED Gold Certification. Visit www.northeastern.edu/isec to learn more about the building.  

To learn more about Eversource’s energy efficiency programs and green building design solutions, contact Bob Laurence via email [email protected], or visit www.eversource.com.