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Sep 1, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 15)

Biopharma's Going Green

Drivers Include Sustainable Design, Technology, and Novel Bioprocessing Strategies

  • Sidebar: Sustainability by Design

    Buildings account for 48% of U.S. energy consumption and roughly half of greenhouse gas emissions,” Donald Schmitt, an architect and principal at Diamond & Schmitt Architects, told the “GreenBioPharma” attendees.

    Schmitt described several of the firm’s recently constructed laboratory facilities, including a 22-story research tower for Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto, designed to house a 2,000-person staff and featuring a range of sustainable design concepts, building materials, and operational characteristics. These features are not only eco-friendly but will reduce operating costs by 30–40% and enhance the work environment, according to Schmitt.

    This and similar projects incorporate an efficient exterior building envelope designed to minimize the perimeter. The envelope includes large window surfaces that allow natural light to be harvested and pushed deep in the building interior, connects those working inside to the surrounding landscape, creates common areas that encourage interaction among research teams, and recovers heat generated in the building by lab equipment and computers, for example.

    Innovations such as “biowalls” create living biofilters to clean the air within the facility. Ceramic frits embedded in windows protect against UV rays. High-efficiency plumbing systems and reuse of gray water contribute to reduced water consumption. And green roofs can help mitigate stormwater damage and minimize heat island effects. The use of reflective roofing materials can limit heat build-up.

    Paul Todd Merrill, director of sustainable construction at Clayco, provided a general contractor’s perspective and described the challenges inherent in finding the sweetspot in design and construction, trying to balance project costs, operations, and sustainability. He emphasized the importance of buy-in among the decision makers in a company or organization, and the need for education, baseline measurements, and well-defined sustainability goals.

    “We emphasize early energy modeling on projects,” said Merrill, to enable an analysis of costs and to predict the ROI for each option. He estimated a three-year payback for daylight-harvesting strategies, five years for a more energy-efficient HVAC system, and five to ten years for improvements to the building envelope.

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