Life Science Tackles a Big Dirty Problem

The Life Science Industry has a big, dirty problem. The same R&D centers that develop lifesaving medicines are also dirty – really dirty when it comes to CO2 emissions. In fact, lab buildings have some of the largest carbon-footprints operating today.

It’s not hard to find examples – buildings in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, San Diego – every Life Science hub has lab buildings that rank as energy hogs with emissions far greater than necessary.

Why? Do lab buildings have to have outsized carbon footprints? Is emitting CO2 at 5-10X the rate of a typical building the cost of developing medicines today?

The answer is a resounding NO. Running lab buildings inefficiently with large carbon footprints is not necessary. It is possible to operate Life Science lab buildings today with far less energy use and CO2 emissions. But it’s also hard – requiring a rethinking of the players, processes and technologies that operate in the lab ecosystem today.

The good news is that the roadmap to efficient research labs already exists. Aircuity client University of CA, Irvine, broke new ground with their pioneering SmartLabs program. More recently, a top 10 life sciences company followed a similar path of innovating how their labs operate. The playbook for lab efficiency and reduced fossil-fuel consumption is well established and focuses on one area: airflow optimization.

Airflow in lab buildings consumes 60-70% of the overall energy consumption and produces almost all the CO2 emissions. UCI and the life sciences client systematically evaluated the impact of airflow on the safety and efficiency of their lab spaces – and developed a framework for success. It includes:

  • EH&S creating a global, lab ventilation framework
  • Global Engineering updating lab ventilation standards to acknowledge the latest technologies
  • Procurement establishing turnkey partners to deliver airflow optimization.

Why are these components so important?Β  Because it gets all the stakeholders of an energy project on the same side of the table – breaking down the traditional boundaries that put EH&S opposite Facilities, or Engineering and Operations.

Tackling lab efficiency requires a change from the existing culture of organizational boundaries that hinder results and create friction – to one where there’s alignment of all parties toward the shared goal of reducing CO2 emissions from our labs. This approach breaks down existing boundaries and frees up the opportunity to deliver decarbonization with speed and scale – something the entire industry desperately needs.

Aircuity is excited to be partnering with 11 of the top 20 life science companies to address their carbon footprint. We coach leaders at life science organizations to encourage their organizations to solve the decarbonization challenge in lab buildings by thinking differently, with a new mindset.Β  We can show you a path forward with better lab operations, lower emissions, and less friction among all stakeholders – and it’s a real win, win, win result.