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NU looks to lead in lab sustainability

Lab SustainabilityNU is constantly examining the breadth of our operations to identify the highest impact areas to reduce energy and water use, as well as reduce waste. Due to a labs unique ventilation, lighting, and equipment requirements, this necessitates a much higher energy use intensity (EUI) than almost any other space on campus. 

As part of this initiative to reduce energy use in labs, the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) was formed and NU jumped right in with Facilities Management Engineer, Jim McKinney and Director of Sustainability, Rob Whittier serving as co-members of the Windy City Chapter. I2SL’s mission is to educate and share information amongst the “high tech facility” community on the best practices and new developments in the sustainable design, engineering, and operation of laboratories and other similar facilities. 

In his role as an Engineer at NU, McKinney works to ensure these best practices and developments are applied in NU’s labs, by conducting energy audits and upgrades in our existing labs, like those in the Feinberg School of Medicine, Technological Institute, and the Center for Comparative Medicine (CCM). However, Facilities Management can only do so much; a lot of energy and waste reductions are dependent on user behavior.

For example, choosing to recycle product packaging and shutting the fume hood sash when it is not in use are huge opportunities to have a more sustainable lab. To help laboratory users identify what they can do to lower their lab’s carbon footprint, Facilities Management is looking forward to rolling out a “Green Labs Program” by the end of the 2014-2015 academic year. “The Green Labs initiative will include a checklist of simple actions to conserve energy and water and reduce waste whenever possible. Collectively our lab spaces will have a tremendous impact! Harvard University has been running a similar program for several years so we’ve been able to learn what has worked and we’ve got a great plan underway,” stated Whittier.