University of California engineers have created Smart Labs to address the huge energy demand of research labs and to improve Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ).

The Smart Labs recipe from UC Irvine (UCI) can be easily implemented in other universities and research lab settings, and can dramatically reduce energy consumption by more than 50 per cent.

At the same time, intelligent ventilation platforms keep lab personnel safe by ensuring that air quality adheres to strict safety standards.

Smart Labs consist of seven essentials, they are:

Lower System Pressure Drop
Demand Based Ventilation
Dynamic, Digital Control Systems
Fumehood Airflow Optimisation
Exhaust Fan Discharge Velocity Optimisation
Continuous commissioning with automatic cross functional platform fault detection
Demand-based, LED Lighting with controls.

The implementation of these essentials is at the heart of how the Smart Labs approach reduces energy use so drastically while maintaining strict adherence to safety regulations.

The Smart Lab approach can be implemented both in new buildings and by retrofitting existing buildings. UCI has applied the design to 13 buildings across campus reducing energy use by an average of 61 per cent while providing a better environment for lab occupants.

Given that six of the seven Smart Lab Essentials pertain to the ventilation system and its controls, it is no surprise that Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) is at the heart of Smart Labs success.

Labs require 100 per cent outside air, with a full changeover of internal air volume required six to 10 times per hour during normal operation.

As such, a huge amount of energy is expended by lab buildings' ventilation systems: heating, cooling, humidifying, dehumidifying, filtering, distributing, supplying, and expelling air. It can be difficult to determine the proper air exchange rates in labs, especially given the need to balance costly air exchange with the need for a safe working environment for researchers.

The reality is that setting a single air change rate to balance safety and energy consumption will not achieve either objective.

Instead, ventilation should be matched to current needs through DCV. For this reason, the UCI engineers tasked with designing the Smart Labs approach focused on how to most efficiently and effectively control building ventilation.

The resulting design utilises DCV technology from Aircuity, not just to generate energy savings of as much as 50 per cent, but also to supply key safety information about the building in the form of air quality data.

Aircuity's solution supports the six essential items that deal with ventilation and its control, and contributes over half of the energy savings of smart labs in addition to being "the brain of the system" by delivering intelligent data about the lab operation.

Aircuity's laboratory-focused DCV solution provides continuous monitoring of critical environments and automatically adjusts ventilation rates for safety and energy efficiency.

Continuous monitoring of the lab environment gives safety personnel insight to what is happening on a 24-hour, seven days a week basis. Regardless of when an event occurs, ventilation rates will automatically increase until the air is clean again and run at higher rates.

Additionally, safety personnel may review IEQ data so that incidents can be identified, and persistent issues can be evaluated to improve lab practices.

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