Your LEED certification is the beginning, not the end, of laboratory sustainability. Coming off our sponsorship of I2SL, the Priorclave NA team is all the more committed to ensuring that our products and practices are environmentally sustainable and support your quest for greater efficiency and sustainability – because it’s a fact: Your autoclave can create significant hurdles to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and efficient operations.
Energy Efficient Autoclaves and LEED
The only way for a building to be meaningfully efficient – cost efficient, energy efficient, operationally efficient – is to treat the facility as an integrated system. Architects can design a building to be LEED gold, but if you then fill your labs with the wrong equipment, the building is going to struggle to function at that level of sustainability. In this regard, inefficient medical-grade sterilizers are a major culprit.
Choosing an energy efficient autoclave has meaningful “second-order” effects. An energy efficient autoclave – one which can be fully powered down, minimizes electric consumption, wastes no excess water, and doesn’t rely on a steam jacket or bolt-on steam-generator – pumps less heat and moisture into your lab. Lowering the “building load” in this fashion doesn’t just save energy and money. It significantly simplifies the building’s HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system. Efficient HVAC engineering is richly rewarded under LEED.
LEED Points and Energy Efficient Autoclaves
LEED tends to encourage facilities to simplify and minimize their HVAC systems. Of the 35 possible points in the LEED “Energy and Atmosphere” category, 19 are within the “Optimize Energy Performance” credit. This is the most important credit in the LEED scheme, because LEED places such a high priority on reducing energy use and delaying climate collapse. Simpler systems are also easier for occupants to meaningfully control – earning points in the Indoor Environmental Quality “Thermal Comfort” credits (which focus on the control, design, and verification of HVAC systems).
But if your building has a smaller LEED-friendly HVAC system, and you then install an always-on, always-hot medical-grade autoclave, you are going to be fighting that HVAC system 24/7. This leads to uncomfortable working conditions, damaging levels of moisture, and strains the system itself, driving up energy consumption. In short, it’s the exact opposite of what you were attempting to accomplish by designing to LEED standards.
Looking Down the Road
The next version of LEED standard – LEED v4 – is expected to see wide adoption by 2016. The LEED v4 Water Efficiency prerequisites entirely disallow several mechanisms that most conventional medical autoclaves rely on (Venturi ejectors, once-thru cooling with potable water, and constant fresh-eater bleeds – all explained in detail in our autoclave water consumption whitepaper). This is a great move, because it helps assure that a LEED building is actually functioning as efficiently as you’d hope. But there are bound to be some pretty unhappy facility managers and admins who suddenly discover that it no longer matters how fantastically efficient your toilets are, nor how many solar panels are up on the roof: That hospital-style autoclave chugging away in the humid corner of your lab means no LEED v4 certificate hanging in your lobby.