Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, September 2017


UCSF Labs:  Five Ways to Use Less Power and Save More Lives

UCSF has over 2.6 million gross square feet of buildings focused on research. These labs are developing life-saving cures to some of the most challenging diseases and debilitating injuries, but the electricity that powers our life-saving research has a shadow side—a carbon footprint.

A new poster campaign launched by the Office of Sustainability has a clear call to action: reduce wasted energy by turning off lab equipment and monitors during non-occupied hours. Some simple, small actions on your part can collectively make a difference:

  1. Turn off equipment
  2. Set ULTs at -70C
  3. Buy Energy Star equipment
  4. Use timers on equipment
  5. Get LivingGreen Certified

Energy Use Intensity in Labs
Labs consume significantly more energy per square foot than the average building due to specialized equipment, such as laboratory fume hoods, -80 degrees freezers, and other research equipment. Collectively UCSF’s labs are very energy intensive, using over 500,000,000 kBTUs in FY16—equivalent to driving 21,753 cars for a year. This carbon footprint has an impact on the health of UCSF’s patients, ranging from an increase in asthma to more premature births to increased vulnerability for youth and the elderly from extreme weather events.

One way to compare energy use across labs is to calculate energy intensity (EUI) in kBTU/square foot (sqft). The EUI expresses a building’s energy use as a function of its size or other characteristics; it is calculated by dividing the total energy consumed by the building in one year (measured in kBTU) by the total gross floor area of the building.

The US National Average EUI for a lab is 370, with a goal of 111 for newly constructed labs. UCSF has set two different goals for its existing labs – at Parnassus the goal is to reach 200 kBTU/sqft and at Mission Bay the goal is to reach 175 kBTU/sqft; the goal at Parnassus is higher to take into account the older age of the buildings, which are less energy efficient.

At Mission Bay, which are on average newer, more energy efficient buildings, EUI ranges from a low of 190 at CVRI to a high of 397 at Sandler Neurosciences.

At Parnassus, where the buildings are older, EUI ranges from a low of 224 at Health Sciences, which includes both HSE and HSW, to a high of 273 at PSSRB.

Call to Action
If all labs incorporate these simple actions, we can help save more lives by reducing UCSF’s greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to health-related climate change impacts:

  1. Turn off equipment
  2. Set ULTs at -70C
  3. Buy Energy Star equipment
  4. Use timers on equipment
  5. Get LivingGreen Certified

1. Not Using it?  Turn it Off

This first one is obvious, but a friendly reminder always helps. If a piece of equipment is not being used, turn it off. This applies to lights, centrifuges, shakers, computer monitors, and fume hoods. Consider trying the Adopt-a-Spot campaign, which engages green champions to take ownership of specific pieces of equipment. In a pilot, this program reduced energy at labs use 8 to 9%. Another easy way to reduce energy and waste in the lab is to identify equipment that does not need to run 24/7 and use a timer to turn the items off in the evening and back on in the morning.  Items such as heating blocks and mixers can easily be plugged into one power strip and programed to automatically turn off at the end of the day.

When left plugged in, our electronic gadgets and basic appliances still use what’s called phantom or vampire energy — even when they are turned off or in sleep mode. For example, a plugged-in cell phone charger sucks energy even when it’s not charging your phone. There is a simple antidote:  unplug it when not in use.  The use of a power strip can make this easy to do for multiple devices. Using a “smart” power strip that automatically shuts off when devices are inactive makes this even easier.

2. Chill Up:  -70C is the new -80C

According to MyGreenLab, chilling up your ultra-low freezer from -80 degrees Celsius (C) to -70C has two major benefits:  it can reduce energy consumption by 30% and in doing so it can prolong the life of your freezer.  This means less down time and less chance that your samples will be compromised.

3. Buy Energy Star and EPEAT
If you have procurement responsibilities, for all new equipment, look for energy star, EPEAT, or energy efficient options.

Go here to see Energy Star lab-grade freezer and refrigerator options. For desktops, laptops, imaging equipment, mobile phones, and televisions, EPEAT, the leading global ecolabel for the IT sector, provides institutional purchasers an easy way to identify and compare high-performance, more-sustainable products.

If your -80 degree freezer is over 10 years old and/or has mechanical issues that that cause excessive consumption of energy, such as over-active compressors or poorly sealed doors, consider replacing it with a new, energy efficient model. And for those appliances and instruments for which Energy Star is not available, there may be utility-company-sponsored rebates to help offset the cost of purchasing energy-efficient equipment; check with the Office of Sustainability for more information on rebates.

If energy efficient equipment is not available, be clear with companies that you want such products. When Thermo-Fisher inquired about the UCSF rebate program to encourage the purchase of energy efficient ULTs, we asked that they offer a 50% more energy efficient freezer.  Within a year, they met the challenge.

“Reducing energy demand in labs is one of the most significant ways to reduce our carbon emissions.  When customers demand energy efficient equipment, manufacturers will rise to the occasion,” explained Gail Lee, UCSF’s Sustainability Director.

4. Use Timers on Equipment

Another easy way to reduce energy and waste in the lab is to identify equipment that does not need to run 24/7 and use a timer to turn the items off in the evening and back on in the morning.  Items such as heating blocks and mixers can easily be plugged into one power strip and programed to automatically turn off at the end of the day.

5. Get LivingGreen Certified

A new UC-wide green lab policy is encouraging all the campuses to amp up the greening of their labs by having three labs per year be green lab certified. At UCSF, labs can already get certified through the LivingGreen Certification Program. The four-page checklist provides a wealth of possibilities for reducing energy, as well as for tackling waste reduction, conserving water conservation, and reducing toxics. Even if you aren’t ready to tackle getting certified, the checklist is a useful list of green lab best practices.

To learn more go to: http://livinggreen.ucsf.edu/greenlabs and 2017 S-Lab Awards Results.

Story:  Green Impact: Strategy + Communications + Engagement