Written by JacobsWyper Architects
If you’ve ever been involved in a laboratory renovation project, had your lab relocated, or been involved with lab management, you’ve most likely needed to prepare or participate in preparing a laboratory equipment list; a list noting all your equipment by manufacturer, model, power requirements, utility requirements, location, and which lab group or department operates the equipment or might share it with other labs. Typically, the list is created in excel and usually gets very long, as it can contain anywhere from an individual lab’s equipment to an entire department or even an entire company. The equipment list can be a valuable tool for both the scientific team and the design team. However, the key is knowing how to leverage it.
For an architectural and engineering team, the list provides the basis for lab bench space, temperature and humidity requirements, air cleanliness, electrical and plumbing infrastructure, and more. Any architect or engineer that works in the Science & Tech Sector will quickly realize that managing spreadsheets and organizing critical data is crucial for the design process, especially when it comes to equipment. Equipment (laboratory or process) is often the driver for environmental conditions and space requirements – the humble excel equipment list is an important (and time-consuming) part of every project. Sometimes existing equipment is relocated from one project to another, but more often than not scientific teams are purchasing new equipment to fit out a space as they expand the scope of their capabilities or are requiring new equipment.
The exciting part of our work at JacobsWyper is that we get a glimpse into how different Science & Tech clients organize their information each time we request and receive an equipment list. And, you guessed it, everyone does it differently. Having been inspired by the work of My Green Lab and other Science & Tech sustainable leaders in the industry, we have been thinking about how we might leverage our humble equipment lists to help contribute to sustainable lab design.
We’ve asked ourselves how the My Green Lab Certification could help positively influence the collection of lab equipment information by scientific teams for the development of laboratory equipment lists to allow for more sustainable lab operations. How can these lists aid in planning for the equipment, the design of new spaces, and client education around new lab equipment procurement? Below, we've compiled 6 tips for the development of an equipment list that allows for more sustainable lab operations.
1. Avoid the duplicate purchase of energy-consuming equipment
Why? One function of the equipment list and its visibility would be to help the scientific team reduce duplication of energy intensive pieces of equipment. Planning can inform design, perhaps facilitating the development of core facilities or shared resources where there weren’t any before. Of course, some equipment will need to be duplicated depending on usage and scientific requirements. For instance, every lab might need its own drying oven, or their own PCR machines, water baths, and incubators. But perhaps autoclaves, microscopes with lasers, high-throughput sequencing equipment, mass spec facilities, x-ray, or other radiation equipment could be used more collaboratively to save money, save square footage, and reduce energy use.
2. Ensure sustained power supply
Why? An accurate equipment list can help designers ensure redundant power systems in areas that need it are put on backup power generation, e.g., equipment rooms with cold storage. What else on the equipment list needs uninterrupted or backup power? Preventing catastrophic equipment failures is part of sustainability, too – avoiding the need to repeat experiments and spend additional money to re-do things.
3. Identify equipment power options and usage schedule
Why? Most of the time lab equipment needs to be running or in standby mode to support the work of the lab, but often times equipment is only used for a specific purpose and then can be turned off. Consider asking the following about your equipment usage to determine if there are opportunities to reduce equipment usage, runtimes, and energy.
4. Identify/ask if the equipment has an Energy Star certification or other energy efficiency rating
Why? The client procurement team gains an understanding of options for more efficient equipment for long-term energy saving. Moving energy efficient equipment into a new build could be prioritized and opportunities for eliminating energy inefficient equipment from the new space could be identified. Or, if a lab receives funds to set up new equipment in the new area, they can make more educated decisions of what to purchase new.
5. Identify/ask if the equipment is ACT Label Certified
Why? The client procurement team gains an understanding of the environmental impacts of their lab chemicals, consumables, and equipment. The Accountability, Consistency, and Transparency (ACT) Label was designed to address the need of manufacturers, scientists and procurement specialists for clear, third-party verified information about the environmental impact of laboratory products. Using a standardized method, the evaluation of these products by a team of independent auditors results in an ACT label that scores a product on a number of Environmental Impact Criteria, including energy and water use, responsible chemical management, lifetime rating, and disposal of the product and packaging at the end of life.
6. Identify potential end-of-life terms and opportunities for replacement equipment to improve sustainability
Why? Older equipment is often less efficient than more current models. When budget allows, replace equipment with more efficient models or processes. Updating outdated equipment can allow for more cutting-edge science, which can draw in a higher caliber of scientists to an institution. An organization could consider working with a nonprofit like Seeding Labs to get functional lab equipment to labs that need the resources in the developing world. During project programming, speak with clients/users about typical plug load contributions to lab spaces and specific energy-saving strategies related to equipment operation and procurement. By sharing and promoting these ideas early in the project, design can allow for wider adoption of sustainable practices.
Whether you’re a lab manager, department head, junior or senior scientist, we’d invite you to take a look at your equipment list though a difference lens – ask yourself and your team: how might we leverage the humble equipment list to improve and promote sustainability in our labs?
If you are a lab manager or scientist and want a sample equipment list to get you started, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request one.