Springtime… Green time

By Pamela Ahlberg

Here in my neck of the woods in Northwestern New Jersey, spring arrived weeks ago, which the early and abundant forsythia flowers outside my office window testify to. No guarantee, however, that we won’t see snow on Easter. But because of their regularity, these wacky weather patterns are no longer noteworthy, and the public’s reaction (based on my conversations with folks at the post office and bank) seems equally blasé. But climate change and its presumed causes remain a big concern within the scientific community—both in terms of research and sustainable lab design.

This being the April issue of Lab Manager, we turn our attention to issues of energy efficiency and environmental responsibility. To that end, our cover story this month looks at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) Molecular Foundry laboratory. Completed in 2006 with the goal of achieving a U.S. Green Buildings Council LEED Silver rating, the lab went beyond expectations and received a LEED Gold rating though various measures, including minimizing energy use and rightsizing. According to Paul Mathew, staff scientist and leader of the Commercial Building Systems Group at LBNL, “The interesting fact is that often there are really good efficiency opportunities in laboratories. What you want to focus on are the big things like ventilation. It is obviously a little more complicated, but there are very well-tested, proven solutions to reduce energy use for labs.” 

Sustainability is also the message of this month’s Technology & Operations article, which looks at a how performing a life cycle analysis (LCA) on key laboratory technologies can help “to quantitatively determine the energy and greenhouse gas impacts of a product, from its manufacture through its useful lifetime and to its ultimate disposal at the end of its life.” End users of these technologies can apply the knowledge gained from that analysis to their own sustainability goals of reducing energy consumption and minimizing environmental risk. Echoing another “green” theme is this month’s Perspective On article, which examines the challenges and business strategies of two biofuel research labs that, despite facing “the slings and arrows of environmentalists, food producers and even applied economists,” soldier on to find ways to improve production techniques and cost-effectiveness. Christopher Perkins, lab director at the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of Connecticut and Dr. Sabrina Trupia, assistant director of biological research at the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) in Edwardsville, Ill., both see growing opportunities in their field despite the obstacles.

Unrelated to the “green” message, but equally important, is this month’s Lab Management article on how to efficiently source the very best job candidates. With a manager’s time more precious than ever, it’s important that the hiring process be as streamlined and effective as possible. Click here for John Borchardt’s six strategies to help you better focus your efforts in finding well-qualified candidates.

For those of you who attended our Lab Manager 2012 Bootcamp last month at Pittcon, I hope it proved valuable and you returned to your labs with stronger and more positive communication skills. For those who stopped by the Lab Manager booth, thank you. We appreciate your feedback and support.

Happy springtime

Categories: Editor's Buzz

Published In

Saving Energy, Saving Money Magazine Issue Cover
Saving Energy, Saving Money

Published: April 1, 2012

Cover Story

Saving Energy, Saving Money

In 2002, when Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in Berkeley, California, decided to build the Molecular Foundry laboratory, they employed the help of Steve Greenberg, an in-house energy management engineer.
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