About Labs21

Lab Context
Events & Activities


Labs21 is an American collaborative initiative involving private and public sector operators of laboratories. Its initial development was sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), who continue to support it. It is also co-sponsored by the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL), a not-for-profit foundation. The Labs21 materials, events and other activities have been created by a team involving the sponsors and two main sub-contractors, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (managed by the University of California) and the National Renewable Engineering Laboratory.

The American Labs21 has kindly given the Higher Education Environmental Performance Improvement (HEEPI) project permission to use and, where necessary, adapt its materials to the UK. This site blends these materials with existing British and European ones to create, we hope, a first port of call for both universities and other organisations operating laboratories when seeking information on their sustainable design and operation.

At present, Labs21 UK is just an information resource. However, we hope that over time it might follow evolve into a more active initiative, similar to Labs21 in the US. This runs courses and events, conducts benchmarking exercises, and generally encourages the development of sustainable, high performance, and low-energy laboratories that will:

  • Minimize overall environmental impacts.
  • Protect occupant safety.
  • Optimize whole building efficiency on a life-cycle basis.
  • Establish goals, track performance, and share results for continuous improvement.

To demonstrate their commitment to this philosophy, Labs21 Partners in the US commit to the following:

  • Adopt voluntary goals.
  • Assess opportunities from a "whole buildings" approach.
  • Use life-cycle cost analysis as an important decision-making tool.
  • Incorporate a comprehensive, whole building commissioning process into new construction and retrofit projects.
  • Employ a range of energy and water efficiency strategies.
  • Measure energy and water consumption and track emission reductions.
  • Evaluate on-site power generation, combined heat and power technologies, and renewable power purchases.
  • Build with "green" construction materials.
  • Promote energy and water efficiency efforts.
  • Expand beyond the laboratory building.

Labs21 US seeks to create environmental showcase laboratories by encouraging laboratory owners, operators, and designers to adopt the "Labs21 Approach." This strategy involves taking an initial evaluation of a laboratory's energy use from a comprehensive perspective when considering efficiency improvements. This requires focusing on all of a laboratory's energy systems and wastes, including its HVAC and electrical power supply, rather than focusing on specific energy-using components.

Such an approach allows laboratory owners and operators to pursue integrated energy and water conservation measures with significantly higher efficiencies and cost savings than the traditional approach of addressing components sequentially or individually. Adopting the Labs21 Approach will encourage laboratories to: 1) make capital investment decisions based on life cycle cost savings; 2) pursue advanced, energy-efficient HVAC technologies; 3) design systems that recover and exchange waste heat and other forms of free energy; 4) incorporate renewable energy systems.

The resulting showcase facilities will reduce emissions, streamline energy and water usage, and decrease overall costs—all while preserving the integrity of the laboratory's mission.

To learn more about the American Labs21 approach, review the Labs21 Approach Document (4 pp., 208 KB, about PDF).