Three Potential Game Changers From the 2022 I2SL Conference

Recently, Hixson Mechanical Engineer Victor Rolfsen, E.I., attended the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) annual conference. The 2022 event featured sustainability-focused presentations, as well as eco-friendly technologies demonstrated on the show floor.

According to Victor, the following were three potential game-changers seen and/or discussed at the show:

  1. Constant volume, low flow, self-adjusting baffle hoods. Once upon a time, hoods were fairly limited in their capabilities, and were notorious in their ability to create problems with the balance of air in the lab. Self-adjusting baffle hoods are far removed from that era: These hoods respond when the sash is opened and automatically adjust the baffle position to keep the user protected from contaminates spilling back into the lab from inside the hood. This provides a higher degree of safety for the lab worker and reduces potential for air balancing issues.
  2. Aircuity®. A number of the presentations at this year’s show discussed the advantages of the Aircuity centralized air sampling platform. Aircuity monitors environmental parameters, sampling and analyzing packets of air in a lab which are routed to a centralized suite of sensors. Aircuity then sends a signal to the Building Management System to adjust ventilation based upon indoor contaminant levels to optimize indoor environmental quality and energy efficiency. In addition to these benefits, the Aircuity system also saves money: Large amounts of fresh air no longer have to be re-circulated and re-conditioned. Instead, the system is designed to provide only the required amount of fresh air necessary to enhance the indoor air quality of the lab and the comfort of its occupants.
  3. Decarbonization (and electrification). Almost every presentation at the conference featured the concepts of decarbonization (reducing reliance on fossil fuels), and electrification (moving away from natural gas and other fossil fuels).

When discussing decarbonization, it is important to note that carbon is split into two categories: operational carbon and embodied carbon.

  1. Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions arising from the raw materials required to build your lab.
  2. Operational carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions that your lab would produce on a daily basis from energy consumption.

To reduce the amount of embodied carbon on a project, most recommend renovating spaces instead of building brand new facilities. Doing so drives the embodied carbon calculation down significantly. (Want to learn more about renovating existing spaces? Check out this article.)

On the operational side of the decarbonization is where electrification comes into play. To decarbonize, some labs are moving away from reliance on a central plant and gas-fired boilers and instead choosing to use electric-based solutions (e.g., heat pumps). Keep in mind though that scale comes into play: The sheer size of some projects may preclude the use of heat pumps since boilers can serve much larger areas more efficiently and cost effectively than a heat pump. In addition, central plants may make more sense in large projects from operations and maintenance standpoint, in which you can service single a boiler that’s creating hot water or steam that’s then being distributed to units in mass, versus multiple heat pumps located in multiple locations.

Hixson attends events such as I2SL to increase our own knowledge and also provide greater insight for our clients. If you would like to learn more, contact us today!


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