Rainwater harvesting, tighter building envelopes, daylight harvesting and leaner, meaner HVAC systems—when it comes to gaining LEED certification, architects have a vast array of green building tactics to choose from in designing homes and most types of commercial buildings. But large LEED-certified research laboratories remain rare, for a number of reasons.
First, labs are notorious energy hogs, often making use of high-powered equipment and refrigeration systems. Second, they often require specialized ventilation systems to keep that equipment cool and to prevent cross-contamination of chemicals and organic compounds. In fact, according to the University of California, research laboratories can use four to five times more energy than similarly sized classrooms or offices and can account for as much as two-thirds of a university campus’s energy consumption (which actually led one university in recent years to host a competition for students with hot ideas for cutting the carbon footprint of the average research lab).
That said, LEED certification now seems to be penetrating to even the furthest reaches of the building world, and we’ve been seeing more and more LEED certified research labs over the last year or so, among them the James M. Jeffords Hall at the University of Vermont.
This 97,000-square-foot, $56 million building—home to the university’s departments of plant biology and plant and soil science—is the sixth on campus to achieve LEED Gold status. (One of the university’s remodel projects, the George D. Aiken Center, is currently on track to gain LEED Platinum certification).
Jeffords Hall contains seven teaching labs and three general purpose classrooms on the first floor for undergraduate and graduate students in the life sciences programs, while its upper two floors contain research laboratories and offices. These are modern laboratory facilities designed to provide “high-quality experiential learning opportunities” in molecular, ecological and environmental research. But they aim to do so with less impact on the environment, thanks to an underground central steam and chilled water system that completes a loop around Jeffords Hall and connects to the mechanical room of the university’s Health Science Research Facility.