This article originally appeared on Chiller & Cooling Best Practices
By James Johnson and Jonathan Kosobucki
The Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) connects scientists from the University of Maryland, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and industry to find solutions to major scientific and medical challenges, such as new vaccines and the development of diagnostic and therapeutic products. With one of the nation’s largest collections of high-resolution instruments, they look inside cells and manipulate molecules. IBBR researchers have figured out the molecular structure of proteins, unraveled the protein interactions involved in autoimmune disorders and discovered possible countermeasures for antibiotic resistance.
Their work is precise, infinitesimal, and experiments do not end simply because the clock says 5 p.m., or there’s a sweltering heat wave. IBBR scientists require around-the-clock access to their labs—and those labs require a stable environment. A change in room temperature of just one or two degrees could twist the outcome of an experiment. Increased humidity for example, could interfere with the sensitive scientific measurement equipment.
With high-energy-use equipment, their HVAC system must run day and night, in buildings that never go dark. Due to this, IBBR was one of the biggest energy hogs on campus, as well as one of the most difficult to make more energy efficient. Challenged by a state mandate to reduce energy consumption, and a university commitment to reduce total energy consumption 20% by 2020, the IBBR facilities management team embarked on an aggressive plan to meet this goal. One of the first actions: a chiller plant optimization project.
When the project began, the plant baseline was 0.9 kW/ton, operating at just 50% output. Now, the plant runs 27% to 37% more efficiently, at 0.57 – 0.65 kW/ton, effectively keeping energy costs flat while building occupancy increased. IBBR has also reduced CO2 emissions by roughly 125 tons per year while improving plant reliability. Lab environments now remain stable, even through icy, snowy winters and hot, humid summers.