30 Amazing Eco-friendly University Science Labs

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Updated August 4, 2020

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University science labs require an abundance of energy and materials and therefore, and are not often thought to be environmentally friendly. However, the examples listed below hope to reverse that impression.

Top 10 Amazing Eco-friendly University Science Labs

#1 Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
#2 Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
#3 Madsar Institute of Science and Technology Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates,
#4 King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Thuwal, Saudi Arabia,
#5 University of Maryland College Park, MD
#6 University of Liverpool Liverpool, England,
#7 University of St. Andrews St. Andrews, Scotland,
#8 Aberystwyth University Aberystwyth, Wales,
#9 University of Nottingham Nottingham, England,
#10 Yale University New Haven, CT

In recent years, many universities have seized the opportunity to decrease energy costs and rely less on traditional energy sources by creating structures that are environmentally respectful and more energy efficient. Science labs can be costly to retrofit and construct from scratch, but the operating payoff can be considerable.

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To develop this list, we examined the following characteristics.

1. LEED Certification or BREEAM Certification (depending on location), and other examples of leadership in application of sustainable technology.
2. Outstanding visual aesthetics.
3. Projects at universities that show a general commitment to sustainable building practices.

  1. Arizona State University

    Tempe, AZ

    Winner of Research and Development's 2006 Lab of the Year, Tempe, Arizona's Biodesign Building B is the first LEED Platinum certified building in the state. Home to departments that study healthcare, sustainability, and security; the facility is on the cutting edge of bioscience research. Designed through a collaboration between Lord Aeck Sargent and Gould Evans Associate Architects, the structure is composed of locally sourced materials and contains 175,000 square feet of research space. The campus master plan calls for four buildings, and along with Building B, Building A was completed in 2004. Sustainability results include a 40% reduction in water usage and 50% of the building construction waste was recycled.

  2. Lehigh University

    Bethlehem, PA

    Bethlehem, Pennsylvania's Lehigh University recently opened a new building to house the Science, Technology, Environment, Policy and Society (STEPS) building. Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the $62 million structure incorporates a green roof to provide insulation and glass walls to increase natural light and minimize reliance on artificial lighting systems. Built with the intention of increasing collaboration between science disciplines, the STEPS building houses both graduate and undergraduate research labs. The space's open design helps bring elements of nature inside, and with low-flow and dual flush toilets and ample daylight, the University is seeking LEED certification for the project.

  3. Madsar Institute of Science and Technology

    Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates,

    The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is one of the world's most impressive and eco-friendly institutions. Dedicated to researching solutions for sustainability, the building was created in collaboration with MIT. Designed by Foster and Partners, the structure is the first of its kind to be powered solely by solar energy, and was completed in 2010. Sustainability features include low-energy light fixtures and solar screens for sun protection for the harsh desert sun. The building also complies with the cities car-free policy, which encourages alternative methods of transportation. With a strong commitment to finding alternative energy solutions, the Masdar Institute truly exists as a global model for sustainability.

  4. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

    Thuwal, Saudi Arabia,

    Located in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology was the first LEED certified project in the country, and was also named Lab of the Year by Research and Development Magazine in 2011. The facility houses over 2 million square feet of laboratory space across four buildings, and was awarded a LEED Platinum certification. An impressive design by HOK architects, the structures onsite provide facilities for the study of sustainable solutions for water, energy, and food, and the design incorporates maximized natural light, solar panels, and sun shades, which are essential to the location's hot desert climate. Seventy-five percent of the construction materials were sourced from recycled resources, and all of the campus wastewater is recycled.

  5. University of Maryland

    College Park, MD

    Located in Baltimore, the Health Sciences Facility III at the University of Maryland School of Medicine is set to open in 2018. The proposed design, a collaboration between HOK and Design Collective Inc., includes over 330,000 square feet, and the University will be seeking LEED Certification upon project completion. Incorporating two towers with an adjoining central atrium, the building's design will function as the central research facility for the University's medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy schools, and will include high-end imaging resources and a five-story dry lab. A ten-story wet lab will contain animal research and nano medicine laboratories, and the site's open design and numerous meeting spaces intend to promote scholarship and interaction inter-departmentally.

  6. University of Liverpool

    Liverpool, England,

    With a BREEAM Excellent rating, the Central Teaching Laboratories of the University of Liverpool won the S-Lab Award for Best New Laboratory Building in 2012. The facility houses the physics, chemistry, archaeology, and earth and ocean science departments, and the open floor plan, numerous common areas, and central atrium promote interaction between the sciences. The three-story building, completed in 2013 utilizes a rainwater harvesting system, solar panels, and a green wall to aid in building insulation. A state-of-the-art facility offers 15 teaching labs and a commitment to biodiversity that can be seen through the site's landscaping as well as the many birdhouses that line the building's facade.

  7. University of St. Andrews

    St. Andrews, Scotland,

    Scotland's only BREEAM rated building, the Biomedical Sciences research Center at the University of St. Andrews was designed by Boswell Mitchell Johnson Architects and was completed in 2012. Utilizing natural ventilation and large windows to increase the intake of natural light, the structure's sustainability features also include a heat and power plant that uses 54% less energy than grid based electric and gas boilers. The building's heating system is designed to contribute any unused heat it produces to the site's adjacent structures, and the separation of offices from laboratory facilities enables more energy efficient ventilation. Project materials were responsibly sourced, and the complex acts as a model for sustainable building not only in Scotland, but also worldwide.

  8. Aberystwyth University

    Aberystwyth, Wales,

    Designed by Pascall and Watson Architects, the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University was given a BREEAM Excellent rating. The design incorporates natural sunlight and a green roof as well as a rainwater harvesting system and a ground source heat pump. Eighty percent of the project's materials were responsibly sourced, and the building utilizes a natural ventilation system. Perhaps one of the structure's most interesting features, sheep's wool was used as the primary means of insulation for the building. Housing research facilities for students and faculty to study the impact of climate change on the world food, energy, and water supply, the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences truly is a model of sustainability.

  9. University of Nottingham

    Nottingham, England,

    Located on the UK campus of the University of Nottingham, the new Energy Technologies Building received the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) Educational Building of the Year for 2014. Part of the UK's target to make all new buildings ‘zero carbon' by 2018, the New Energy Technologies Building utilizes green features including ample use of daylight, low-energy lighting, sensory controlled temperature, and electric car-charging stations. The structure's exposed concrete and enhanced insulation also cut down on energy costs, and the facility produces enough additional energy to heat the neighboring Mental Health Institute building.

  10. Yale University

    New Haven, CT

    Home to the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, Kroon Hall was awarded a LEED Platinum certification, the International Design Award by the Royal Institute of British Architects, and the Most Intriguing Green Building by the Connecticut Green Building Council. Opened in 2009 the 52,000 square foot structure incorporates a green roof that supplies grey water runoff to pump through toilets throughout the building. The structure also includes the 175-seat Burke Auditorium and landscaping which incorporates 25 native species. Fifty percent of the interior red oak paneling used within the building's interior was harvested using wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and a majority of the construction materials were regionally sourced from recycled materials.

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