By Eric Sheffield, communications intern for Facilities Management
A change by researchers in the Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building (SMBB) is saving an estimated $2,000 a month in energy costs for the university. The program responsible for the savings, “It’s Good to Shut the Hood,” is a push to increase safety and reduce the amount of energy each fume hood uses in university laboratory environments by shutting the fume hoods when not in use.
The program’s success in SMBB is a product of a collaboration between Facilities Management, Environmental Health & Safety, the Sustainability Office and the Office of the Vice President for Research.
Hansel Halverson, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, is leading the effort to expand the program campus-wide. Halverson wants to make an impact in decreasing current building energy use and creating more sustainable buildings in the future. “It’s Good to Shut the Hood” engages chemical fume hood users through educational outreach and stickers on the fume hoods to remind users to shut the hood when not in use and to keep the sash, or window, at a safe working height during use.
“Each variable-air-volume fume hood uses the same amount of energy as 3.5 homes,” Halverson said. “This project asks people to make a small change in behavior, and that small change results in large energy savings.”
While fume hoods are essential to keep laboratory researchers safe from toxins and particles, they also require large amounts of energy. Closing these hoods when not in use provides massive energy savings for any research facility.
Similar projects have already made waves at other universities around the nation, including Harvard University and the University of California Davis. A group of results from UC Davis displayed energy savings of up to $1,300 to $6,000 per fume hood each year. While the results are not in yet for the University of Utah, Halverson is at work tracking the savings before and after instituting the project with every hood involved.
While the “Shut the Hood” team has already placed stickers on 300 fume hoods on campus, another 400 fume hoods are set to receive stickers in the coming months. With positive results from SMBB, Halverson is excited to see how researchers can come together to cultivate a sustainable research environment at the U.