How to maintain safety, save energy and extend equipment life in critical environments

Hospitals and laboratory facilities have something in common. Both operate critical environments, where safety is the first priority, and both have great potential for saving energy while extending equipment life.

The most effective way to reduce energy in a critical environment is to lower airflow within the facility. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Genetic Medicine Research Building (GMRB), McKim & Creed designed and implemented a laboratory airflow reduction design and recommissioning project that has slashed energy costs, maintained or improved the safety performance of the HVAC system, and extended the life of the equipment.

McKim & Creed completed a design review of total building airflow for five floors of laboratory space (approximately 350,000 SF), calculated air-flow reductions based on revised minimum lab air changes of six air changes per hour (ACH) while maintaining pressurization requirements, reviewed 780 terminal units, and implemented all revised airflows. The project has netted UNC approximately $250,000 in energy savings in the first year, while also providing improvements in overall building pressurization control and extending the life of the equipment. This represents a payback of less than three years for the university.






Minimum airflow rates in the lab areas were reduced to six air changes per hour (ACH), resulting in $250,000 in energy savings over the first year post completion.



Shown above is one of the eight 40,000-CFM air handling units (AHUs) that serve the five lab floors. The fan speeds for these AHUs were reduced between 15-30% as a result of the airflow reduction in the labs




Airflow reduction and re-commissioning were implemented on five of the seven floors in the 330,000-SF Genetic Medicine Research Building.