Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, May 2016

UCSF Labs:  Shut the Sash

Hood teamUCSF’s commitment to sustainability extends to minimizing the environmental impact of its laboratories, which consume significantly more energy per square foot than the average building due to the specialized equipment, such as laboratory fume hoods, minus eighty degrees freezers and other research equipment.  Research and clinical or complex space comprises about 25 percent of UCSF assignable square footage, but uses about 70 percent of the total energy consumed.

There are many changes labs can implement to make a difference.  An easy call to action for labs:  when not in use, close the sash. When a sash is lowered to the proper position when not in use, it achieves a 10% reduction in cubic feet per minute (cfm) usage, reducing energy consumption.  This simple change can save labs $800/hood/year.

A friendly competition between Beyers Hall and Cardiovascular Research Building (CVRB) was just completed that encouraged labs to shut the sash on its variable fume hoods.  These hoods have a phoenix control system, which monitors the opening of sash every 15 minutes.  This allowed data to be collected on cfm.  CVRB was the winner, reducing cfm by 10%, while Byers reduced by 5%.  CRB won a pizza party and bragging rights.  Congratulations to the winners. 

Effective Outreach Strategies

Zachary Schoenrock, UCSF Communications & Outreach Fellow, was hired in July 2015 to focus on plug load and occupancy behavior.  He helped to engage occupants to inform them about the benefits of shutting the sash in labs.  He used a variety of tactics to inspire behavior change including:  one-on-one conversations, signage, competition and rewards (a pizza party).  In addition, he utilized peer-to-peer outreach.  Zach identified a green champion in each lab to “adopt a hood” and take responsibility for educating others on the benefits of shutting the sash.  At the CVRB, all 12 hoods are in one room and 12 green champions were identified, one for each hood.  According to Zach, because everyone was working in the same room, it was easier to create behavior change.  Byers lab, on the other hand, has multiple labs spread out over five floors, and therefore, it was more challenging to get the word out to everyone.

Other Easy Ways to Green Your Lab

Below are some other easy actionable changes that labs can implement immediately:

  • Replace old inefficient equipment, like freezers and refrigerators.  UCSF’s Office of Sustainability is offering rebates on the cost of a replacement unit selected from a list of energy efficient replacement models.  The program is open until the funds are gone so act soon.  Go HERE to learn more.
  • Chilling up an ultra-low temperature freezer can result in significant energy savings.  An adjustment from -80 to -70 can save 20-30% energy.  To learn more check out this video.
  • Autoclaves use up to 150 gallons of water per load. Consolidate loads and make sure they are full before you use them.