Laboratory Control Banding as a Standalone Measure…What the Data Reveals

We are constantly talking with customers about best practices in lab ventilation design. One topic that comes up with prospective customers is whether the practice of implementing Laboratory Control Bands can be used as a standalone measure without multi parameter demand control ventilation (DCV). For those unfamiliar, “control banding” involves a risk assessment of the hazards associated with the use of volatile chemicals in the laboratory, grouping the chemicals by hazard level and applying set occupied and unoccupied ventilation rates for each “band”. The practice of control banding does help identify high hazard labs and is a part of the Smart Labs program, but the key is that is needs to be used IN CONJUCTION with DCV. Our 20 years of ventilation operation data allows us to be in the unique position to explain why.

As we have done many times in the past, we recently dove into our millions of hours of customer operating data looking for new examples to share. Our data analysts first looked deep into the ventilation data for one site, then expanded it to a few more, finally looking across all lab facilities with Aircuity installations. Our team found the following:

  • The Aircuity system sent the “Go Above 6 ACH” signal for 12,978,223 minutes in the last 60 days.
    • There were 4,977 rooms = 2,607 minutes per room
    • Meaning 43 hours where spaces needed higher ventilation rates

This data demonstrates that the air in your labs gets contaminated so monitoring and controlling ventilation based on current conditions is the best practice. Demand control ventilation will allow rates to go above set levels when needed (clearing the “event” faster) and sometimes baseline air change rates can be set lower than they would using a band approach. Additionally, behavior-based methods like control banding rely on human behavior which leaves room for error. In other words, the approach of using control bands and set air change rates alone is less safe for occupants and it should be combined with demand control ventilation for a true Smart Labs program. Not only is DCV safer, but it can have a larger impact on your carbon footprint as well.