MERCED, CA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently celebrated the University of California, Merced's goal to become a model of environmental stewardship by granting the University with an award for participating in the Laboratories for the 21st Century Partnership Program (Labs21).
The Labs21 program is a voluntary effort recently developed by the EPA and the DOE, with a focus on partnering with labs to improve laboratory energy and water efficiency, encourage the use of renewable energy sources, and promote environmental stewardship in U.S. laboratories.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pleased to be working with the University of California, Merced through this program”, said Phil Wirdzek, Labs21 Program Manager of the EPA. Through its Partnership with Labs21. “The University is pursuing a number of aggressive energy and water efficiency strategies throughout its campus to set a standard for environmental stewardship and sustainable design. As a showcase project, we look forward to the contributions UC-Merced will make to the laboratory community, including other campuses in California and across the country.”
As part of the program, UC Merced has set a number of ambitious goals for the 166,000 square-foot Science and Engineering Building. These goals include:
- Improving the measured energy intensity of the lab to 20 percent below the benchmark for similar lab facilities.
- Including both peak electricity demand and annual energy use in the hard targets for efficiency.
- Establishing and meeting similar goals for water efficiency.
- Achieving a minimum LEED™ Silver rating or equivalent. (LEED is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to evaluate and facilitate the sustainable design of a given facility.)
Why the focus on laboratories? According to the EPA, the typical laboratory currently uses five times as much energy and water per square-foot as the typical office building due to extensive ventilation requirements and other health and safety concerns.
“By improving energy efficiency, UC Merced's labs can significantly reduce energy consumption created by the University, protect the environment by decreasing carbon dioxide emissions, and save money”, said Juan Beltranena, the University's Project Manager for the Science and Engineering Building. “Perhaps more importantly, we can help generate interest in energy-efficient and renewable-energy building technologies and building concepts here in the San Joaquin Valley.”
In exchange for the University's commitment to participate in the program, the EPA and DOE will provide technical assistance in assuring that the Science and Engineering Buildings laboratories are energy and water efficient. In addition, the agencies have committed to providing opportunities for education and training on laboratory energy and water efficiency and research.
In addition to the University's active participation in developing energy-efficient laboratories, UC Merced is also committed to employing renewable energy use techniques and building with green construction materials.