Labs occupy a prominent place in real estate portfolios from companies ranging from life sciences to industrial & logistics to technology, media & communications and even energy, oil & gas. Lab space requires significant investment to provide scientists with the best working environment and to help foster cutting-edge technologies.

Integrating sustainability into lab design and processes can lower costs, improve workplace experience and help companies reach carbon-reduction goals.

Five things facility and lab managers can do to make a sustainable difference in their lab:

  1. Close and secure fume hoods when not in use.
  2. Turn off power-hungry equipment like high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) systems and computers every night or when finished for the day.
  3. Reduce or recycle single-use plastics like pipette tips. Incorporate a washable solution into the current glassware cleaning process, where one can be added with minimal impact
  4. Contract with partners that self-perform on site, eliminating the carbon impact of traveling to and from the site.
  5. Check your freezer setpoints. In many cases, your samples can be stored at a much higher temperature.

Why should labs prioritize sustainable practices?

One major reason is the environmental impact. Labs emit 5-10 times more carbon emissions than traditional office space, significantly contributing to an organization’s carbon footprint. Labs are filled with instruments and equipment that draw significant power and gasses. HVAC systems are often designed with greater venting and circulation of outside air, placing higher demand on utilities.

Optimizing sustainability requires a shift in behavior and resource usage, particularly the use of benchtop equipment, fume hoods and biosafety cabinets. Small actions—such as ensuring fume hood sashes remain closed when not in use and powering down idle equipment—can make a substantial impact on energy consumption and carbon emissions.

More and more companies worldwide have made sustainability commitments and set climate-reduction targets. Making their labs sustainable aligns with the broader decarbonization goals that companies have set. Lab managers can help to educate leadership and employees on why sustainability is important and to help them believe individual actions can make a difference. This collective mindset can make a significant impact on the entire journey toward sustainable labs.

Decarbonizing labs calls for collaboration, education and a fresh perspective. Labs can be transformed into sustainability exemplars while continuing to support their essential functions. By adopting new behaviors and exploring creative solutions, labs can successfully embrace sustainability and make significant progress in their environmental efforts.

For more information on incorporating sustainability in your lab, explore CBRE’s Decarbonization Guide.

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