The Challenge:

The Hoffman Laboratory was not originally designed with energy efficiency in mind. Built in 1963, it was in operation thirty years before the U.S. Green Building Council was even formed, and before Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) became a household term.  When Mitra Nathasingh, the current Building Manager, inherited the building in 2007 upon joining the FAS Office for Physical Resources and Planning, he found the building in dire need of updates, but also recognized countless opportunities for energy efficiency improvements.

The Solution:

Nathasingh's first move was to make a list of all the improvements that were needed, in order of priority, using both his own experience and a number of building assessment reports that were generated by third party consulting firms. Since then, he and his team have worked hard to complete every identified Energy Conservation Measure (ECM), bringing the building up to speed with cutting edge best practices for energy efficiency.

Here are a few highlights from their laudable efforts:

  • In 2007, all outdated linear fluorescent lighting was replaced with efficient T8 linear fluorescent bulbs. The project saves approximately 45,800 KBTU in energy each year, which translates to almost $1,900 in cost savings.
  • To minimize the impact of fume hoods, which can use three to five times as much energy as a typical home in the United States, occupancy sensors were installed so that ventilation rates can be scaled back during periods when the labs are not inuse. The project saves almost 600,000 KBTU each year and reduced annual energy costs by over $12,000.
  • Inefficient and drafty windows were rebuilt to improve performance and reduce heat loss.
  • A green cleaning program was implemented in partnership with the custodial staff to ensure that environmentally sound products and procedures are used. This program, which has been Green Seal certified (a rigorous industry standard), contributes to healthy surroundings for building occupants and cleaning staff, and minimizes the impact of cleaning operations on the environment.
  • Recycled content paper is used throughout the building to help combat deforestation. The Building Operations Team plans to install hand dryers in the near future to further minimize this impact. 
  • Whenever a space is renovated, or a group moves in or out of the building, unwanted furniture is reused—either in house or through Harvard Recycling’s Surplus Center.
  • All new renovations are LEED certified to ensure that best practices regarding energy efficiency, waste management, and other conservation-related topics are incorporated wherever possible. 
  • Old, inefficient bathroom fixtures were replaced with more efficient units—including solar powered faucets, low flow toilets, and low flow urinals.
  • Composting bins were installed in kitchenettes throughout the building to divert food scraps from the waste stream, and instead turn them into nutrient rich soil. Organics degrading in landfills without air emit methane (a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide). Composting adds oxygen to organic waste, so it emits only carbon dioxide as part of the natural carbon cycle during decomposition.

Keys to Success:

The team's commitment to sustainability expands beyond simply reducing energy consumption; instead they aim to address every opportunity for water conservation and waste reduction as well. In part due to their efforts, a culture of conservation has proliferated in Hoffman Laboratory.