From biocontainment to forensic crime, vivarium labs, pharmaceutical labs and more—across the various types of laboratories which contribute to the global life science industry, one consistent factor remains the same—their energy-intensive nature.
A key factor into why labs are so energy intensive is due to the fact that laboratory air quality requirements greatly exceed those of commercial buildings. In some cases, specialty laboratories can consume 100x the energy of similarly sized commercial facilities. Laboratories are often designed for ventilation rates between 6-20 air change rates (ACH) compared to that of 1 or fewer ACH for a standard office building.
Airflow control is one of the technical building blocks of a functional laboratory. How much or how little airflow a lab has will impact fan power, and loads for heating, cooling and humidity control.
Airflow is part of several important exposure control measures including containment devices (e.g., fume hoods) room ventilation and room pressurization. In turn, ventilation systems support the exposure control devices and pressurization strategies that protect lab workers and their colleagues. These systems are built on individual air flow controllers. The way these subsystems perform enables the larger objectives of the ventilation system.
Which is why it is important to consider all the specifics to airflow that today’s laboratories must keep in mind.
Laboratory airflow conditions
It is essential that building owners and laboratory managers take the proper steps to understand and address laboratory airflow. By reducing their air change rates, they can save energy and remain safety compliant. Performance can also be defined with reference to control technology concepts and practical implications. Steps to achieve performance include specification, execution, testing and maintenance.
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Securing Intelligent Lab Infrastructure
Implementing intelligent infrastructure drives operational efficiency and enables digital applications and services to improve occupant experience and create environments for Intelligent Labs to progress through better, data-driven business decisions. Backed by the Green Labs Solution (GLS) approach—which provides a thorough evaluation of existing lab operation and an assessment of the lab goals and objectives—implementing intelligent infrastructure can also ensure that right ventilation rates are set by following the below checklist items:
- The right infrastructure and schedules are implemented to ensure proper ventilation rates are observed for safe lab occupant conditions.
- The right laboratory equipment is in place. A typical Variable Air Valve (VAV) can’t meet the 20 cfm outside air requirement, as they are oversized. 20 cfm per zone 100 zones, bringing too much air. However, a Low Flow Actuator (LFA) can be controlled by a VAV, unlike a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD).
- Air change schedules have been assessed and are properly implemented to meet each space’s unique needs, to help lower energy costs without risking the health of the occupants or assets.
- Proper airflow reduction strategies have been implemented based on: 1) Variable Air Volume (VAV) because it gradually adjusts airflow rates up and down according to instantaneous changes in loads, and 2) 2-Position Constant Volume (CV2) because it selects single high flow rate when the lab is in use and a low rate when it is unoccupied.
GOLO® Intelligent Air Valve
The GOLO® intelligent air valve provides 100:1 turndown capability to deliver lower-controlled minimum airflows that enable more energy savings while maintaining safe, pressurized environments. It is enabled by lower duct velocities and lower pressure drops to save additional fan energy.
It is a high precision, low airflow measurement and control terminal unit that uses a dual blade damper system and advanced algorithms. Its unique design results in a reduced energy usage, simplified design and greater flexibility. It has the largest flow range for its size and most accurate controls available on the market.
- Up to 100:1 turndown* versus blade damper 7:1 and Venturi 15:1
- Accurate flow measurement down to 25 FPM
- High performance multi-blade terminal
- Available in stainless steel, galvanized and special coating construction
- Round and low profile rectangular offerings (8 total sizes)
- Technologically advanced Siemens Lab DXR Controller
*Turndown: the ability to measure airflow accurately across a wider range. The larger the range, the better and more flexible the control
- Simplifies Design - High turn-down ratio means a single Low Flow Air valve (LFA) can replace a large range of dampers and venturi’s.
- Lowers Noise - Better acoustics due to less duct transition being used; eliminates the need to buy attenuators to reduce noise which saves ~$1,000 per terminal unit
- Saves Energy – Less fan energy is needed to manage air pressure across a wide range of airflows throughout the system due to the dual blade damper technology. It’s better equipped to manage air pressure drops than larger sized valves, saves energy with larger turn down, uses LFA instead venturi saving even more energy, fan speeds can be turned down and there is less heating and cooling of outside air
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