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Frequently Asked Questions

Data Sources

What are the data sources for the Labs21 tool?

Is the Labs21 dataset a statistically representative sample of all U.S. laboratory buildings?

Are the energy use data in the tool measured or estimated?

Is my data secure?

How much quality control is done on data in the database?

Submitting Your Data to the Tool

How do I enter my building’s data?

What information do I need to have available before I start to enter a new building?

What if I don't have all of the requested information?

What if I have fiscal year energy use data, not calendar year data?

How do I account for on-site cogeneration or district energy supply?

Can I input data over multiple sessions or do I need to enter everything at once?

How can data entry be split between several individuals at my organization?

What counts as lab area?

What counts as a lab building?

Where do I go for technical support?

How does adding my data to the database help the sustainable lab community?

My building is an Integrated Science Center. Which lab type should I choose?

I have an engineering lab building. How should I enter it in the tool?

How long will it take to enter my building's data?

How long will it take to benchmark my building against its peers?

I'm not in the USA. How can I use the tool?

Contents of the Database

How many buildings are currently in the Labs21 tool database?

How often is the database updated?

Are multiple years of data shown for each building?

Tell me more about the buildings in the peer dataset – where are they located and what kinds of labs are they?

Isn't the data all really old?

Why is there not more system-level data for me to search?

Why aren't there more labs in my climate zone?

Benchmarking Results

How much energy does a "normal" lab building consume?

Does the Labs21 tool provide a rating between 1 and 100, like Energy Star Portfolio Manager?

How does the Labs21 tool differ from Portfolio Manager?

Can I get an Energy Star score for my lab building?

Does Labs21/I2SL issue high-efficiency lab certifications using the benchmarking results?

How can I tell if my lab building is energy efficient using the output of the Labs21 tool?

The application of data filters is limited by the number of data points. Has Labs21 investigated the use of normalization techniques so that the entire data set can be utilized to provide a more “apples to apples” comparison?

How does the tool account for differences in weather?

How does the tool calculate source energy? How does the tool calculate source energy?

The results plot is not very pretty. How can I reformat it to present the results to clients or my boss?

Why can't I filter the database based on air change rates in my lab building?

Is it better to benchmark my buildings based on site or source energy consumption?

Can I benchmark individual labs within my building?

Why don't my filtering checkboxes stay checked when I modify the search terms?

Why can't I filter based on building properties, e.g. VAV HVAC system or exhaust heat recovery?

Improving the Labs21 Tool

How can I suggest improvements to the Labs21 benchmarking tool?

What’s with the new look?

Who maintains the Labs21 Benchmarking Tool?

I am interested in lab benchmarking and would like to volunteer my talents to improve the Labs21 Tool -- how do I help?

Are there any more planned upgrades for the Labs21 tool?

Can I benchmark a lab building's water usage using the Labs21 tool?

I'm interested in funding enhancements to this website -- who should I contact?

Why use the Benchmarking Tool?

What is benchmarking?

What is meant by a building's "functional requirements?"

Why should I benchmark my lab building(s)?

The AIA 2030 Commitment refers me to Labs21 to develop a “regional average” for my laboratory building project. How do I use the Labs21 tool for this purpose?

Can this tool be used for LEED O&M?

I'm a researcher interested in lab benchmarking. Can you send me the raw data?





Data Sources


What are the data sources for the Labs21 tool?

The data in the Labs21 tool was provided by a wide range of laboratory owners and operators in the United States, including federal government agencies, universities, pharmaceutical companies, and other organizations. Identities of the buildings and organizations in the database are masked for confidentiality. The Labs21 database also includes selected buildings from the U.S. Department of Energy’s CBECS dataset.



Is the Labs21 dataset a statistically representative sample of all U.S. laboratory buildings?

No. The Labs21 dataset is the largest known collection of lab-specific building data, but it is not designed to be a statistically representative sample of the U.S. building stock.



Are the energy use data in the tool measured or estimated?

For most buildings, the building-level energy use data is measured data from building-level utility meters. The benchmarking charts indicate whether each data point is based on measured or estimated data. Data labeled as “estimated” is typically based on allocations made where buildings do not have dedicated utility meters. In some cases, estimated data may be based on energy modeling predictions.



Is my data secure?

Yes. All user input data is treated as confidential. The only persons with access to the database are LBNL technical staff responsible for this website. The identities of buildings in the benchmarking charts are masked with anonymous numeric IDs. Furthermore, only normalized metrics are shown (e.g. Btu/sf/yr); the raw data from which metrics are calculated (e.g. building area) are not displayed.



How much quality control is done on data in the database?

LBNL staff perform reviews of all new submissions of data for inclusion in the peer benchmarking dataset. Records that are clearly incorrect (e.g. energy intensity outside of reasonable bounds) or trial entries (marked by user as test or demo data) are not included. However, no detailed auditing is performed to confirm that submitted buildings are real or that data has been entered accurately.


Submitting Your Data to the Tool


How do I enter my building’s data?

Just obtain a username and password here, and then start entering your building’s data!



What information do I need to have available before I start to enter a new building?

Mandatory data fields include: basic data on facility including name and street address; lab building type (physics, chemistry, etc) and purpose (R&D, manufacturing, etc); building gross area, lab area, and vivarium area; occupancy hours per week; and annual energy usage data for all sources of energy used at the building for the year selected by the user.

Additional optional fields include system-level energy consumption data, peak electrical demands, number of fume hoods, high-performance building features, indoor design conditions, and others.



What if I don't have all of the requested information?

Some of the data fields are optional and are not required to complete your submission. Others are mandatory. If it turns out you don’t have everything needed, you can save your data (with draft entries for mandatory fields) and return later when you have the rest. If you’ve saved incomplete or placeholder data, it would be good to select “no – just test data” as your response to the question “Is this an existing building?” until you return and complete the data submission. Don’t forget to change this field to “yes – Existing Building” once the data submission is complete!



What if I have fiscal year energy use data, not calendar year data?

It is acceptable to enter fiscal year data. At present, the benchmarking tool does not attempt to correct for weather variations between sites or years. It is therefore not critical to provide data by the calendar year. However, it would be helpful for future reference to make a note of the fiscal year period in the notes field of the data submission (e.g. “data for fiscal year Sep 2015-Aug 2016”).



How do I account for on-site cogeneration or district energy supply?

If the building is supplied by district energy sources (e.g. steam or chilled water), you should enter the amount of each district utility consumed by each building. Do not correct for the efficiency of the plant serving the building. The Labs21 tool uses standard conversion factors to convert district utility usage to primary (source) energy usage. While this approach does not account for the efficiency of each specific plant, it permits a more equitable comparison between buildings connected to different plants (or with dedicated primary equipment located at the building).



Can I input data over multiple sessions or do I need to enter everything at once?

Your data entries are saved once you submit them. You can log out and then return to edit them at any time.



How can data entry be split between several individuals at my organization?

To share data entry responsibilities, we recommend creating a single login for team members to share. Building data cannot at present be shared between different user accounts.



What counts as lab area?

For the purposes of the Labs21 tool, the lab area is the area requiring 100% outside (“once-through”) air for ventilation. It typically includes lab spaces and lab support spaces. It does not include office spaces, conference rooms, lobbies, breakout spaces, mechanical rooms, restrooms, corridors, stairways, etc. Importantly, lab area also typically does not include language, computer, or music “labs”, or “living lab” showcase buildings (unless the building contains lab spaces as defined above).



What counts as a lab building?

For the purposes of the Labs21 tool, a lab building is a building containing lab space as defined above. To obtain meaningful results, it is recommended that the Labs21 tool is used only when the total lab area fraction (lab area as a fraction of total gross square footage) exceeds approximately 10%.



Where do I go for technical support?

If you have problems with the website, or if you have a burning question that is not answered in these FAQs, please contact labs21-support@lbl.gov.



How does adding my data to the database help the sustainable lab community?

It helps a lot! The vast majority of buildings in the database are user-submitted. The more buildings we have in the tool, the greater chance every user has to select a large sample of peer buildings for benchmarking. Without your user submissions, this tool could not exist.



My building is an Integrated Science Center. Which lab type should I choose?

The tool does not currently include a dedicated category for integrated science centers, which typically combine multiple disciplines under one roof and are common on today’s research campuses. A separate category may be provided in future to better handle these buildings. In the meantime, please select the predominant lab type or choose “Combination/Others” if it’s a real mix of disciplines.



I have an engineering lab building. How should I enter it in the tool?

The tool does not currently include a dedicated category for engineering lab buildings. An improved scheme for lab categorization is under development, but in the meantime please use the closest match from the available list of lab types. In many cases, “Physical” will be the best match for engineering lab buildings.



How long will it take to enter my building's data?

Not long! If all energy usage and building area data are available, and the user is familiar with the building, we estimate a reporting burden of 10-15 minutes per building.



How long will it take to benchmark my building against its peers?

Not long! About 10 minutes to fill out the data filtering form and make a couple of iterations to obtain a good sample size of peer buildings.



I'm not in the USA. How can I use the tool?

At present, the tool’s online data entry system won’t accommodate buildings outside of the US. This feature may be added in future. You can still submit your data to the tool using the spreadsheet option, and you can easily still benchmark your buildings if you know which of the US climate zones is the best match to your own.


Contents of the Database


How many buildings are currently in the Labs21 tool database?

As of late 2016, there were 639 lab buildings in the peer benchmarking dataset. In recent years, the size of the peer dataset has been growing at around 40 buildings per year.



How often is the database updated?

LBNL staff review user-submitted data periodically, typically twice a year. The searchable database is updated after each data review.



Are multiple years of data shown for each building?

No. Only the most recent year of data is shown for each building in the database. Users can still view previous years’ data for their own buildings. Viewing of “longitudinal” data (data over time) may be incorporated into future versions of the tool.



Tell me more about the buildings in the peer dataset – where are they located and what kinds of labs are they?

Peer dataset stats as of late 2016:

  • The dataset contains 639 lab buildings.
  • Total building area is 122 million sf, containing 58 million sf of lab space. This corresponds to 5-10% of the total lab building area in the US.
  • There are buildings from every climate zone and almost every state in the US.

lab type maplab by climate zone

  • By lab type, the distribution is as follows:
  • labs by type


Isn't the data all really old?

Definitely not. Although the tool has been collecting data since 2002, more than half of the entries in the database are less than 5 years old (as of late 2016). Many users update their building data each year, and new facilities are being added to the database at a rate of approximately 40 buildings per year.



Why is there not more system-level data for me to search?

System-level data entry is optional, so very few users of the tool provide it.



Why aren't there more labs in my climate zone?

Because users in your climate zone have not submitted much building data to the tool. Please submit yours, and encourage your neighbors to do the same!


Benchmarking Results


How much energy does a “normal” lab building consume?

“Normal” depends on what kind of lab building we’re talking about – and that’s one of the big reasons we need a lab benchmarking tool! However, please see below for some overall stats on the energy use intensities (EUIs) of the buildings in the Labs21 database (as of late 2016). Note that all EUI values are in kBtu/sf/yr.

labs by type



Does the Labs21 tool provide a rating between 1 and 100, like Energy Star Portfolio Manager?

No. The Labs21 tool allows users to input data on their buildings and compare them to other similar buildings in the database, using various building and system level metrics. A rating based on a multi-parameter regression analysis of the dataset (analogous to an Energy Star score) may be provided in future versions of the tool.



How does the Labs21 tool differ from Portfolio Manager?

Both Portfolio Manager and the Labs21 tool will accept and store building data (building properties and energy usage information). There are a number of differences, but the most significant one for lab building owners is that Portfolio Manager does not currently collect lab-specific information such as % lab area, lab type, or lab purpose. For this reason, any comparison between lab buildings made via Portfolio Manager is not a true comparison between peer buildings with similar functional requirements. The Labs21 tool is the only benchmarking tool to include lab-specific functional requirements to allow selection of a peer group of lab buildings.



Can I get an Energy Star score for my lab building?

No. Energy Star does not currently (as of February 2017) offer an Energy Star ranking for lab buildings.



Does Labs21/I2SL issue high-efficiency lab certifications using the benchmarking results?

No. An I2SL lab efficiency score is under consideration, but further analysis is required and no score or certification is currently available.



How can I tell if my lab building is energy efficient using the output of the Labs21 tool?

Whole-building energy benchmarking is a high-level exercise that’s well suited to identifying good candidates for follow-up investigation.

Generally speaking, if your building has a higher energy use intensity than a peer group of similar buildings, then it may be a good candidate for a closer look at its energy consumption. Note that high energy consumption may also be a symptom of an energy-intensive functional requirement (e.g. a data center in the basement) that does not appear on the list of filtering criteria in the Labs21 tool – that’s why a follow-up is a good idea.

Buildings with high energy efficiency would generally be expected to have lower energy intensity than nominally similar facilities.



The application of data filters is limited by the number of data points. Has Labs21 investigated the use of normalization techniques so that the entire data set can be utilized to provide a more “apples to apples” comparison?

Yes. Normalization is typically done with either a regression-based approach or simulation model-based approach.

  • Regression-based approach: In this approach, a multiple regression yields an equation that relates the normalizing parameters to the metric of interest. This equation is then used to normalize the value of the metric for each building. This approach is used in Energy Star, and works well provided there is a large enough representative dataset (including normalizing parameters) to run a regression. An energy score may be provided in future versions of this tool.
  • Simulation-based approach: In this approach, a simulation model is used to calculate a benchmark (typically representing an “ideal” case or a “baseline”) against which the actual energy use can be compared. The model accounts for the relevant normalizing parameters. Labs21 developed a simulation-based benchmark model, but this approach is not currently integrated into the Labs21 benchmarking tool.
  • A more detailed description of these methods is available in this paper.

How does the tool account for differences in weather?

You can filter the dataset by climate zone, but the tool does not currently “normalize” data to a typical year or to weather differences within a climate zone.



How does the tool calculate source energy? How does the tool calculate source energy?

Source energy is calculated using the same factors as those used in Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Details are here.



The results plot is not very pretty. How can I reformat it to present the results to clients or my boss?

We know. If aesthetics are important, we suggest copying the building data that appears in the table underneath the results chart, pasting it into your favorite spreadsheet or graphics program, and making a prettier chart. One example is shown below:

labs by type



Why can't I filter the database based on air change rates in my lab building?

A few reasons. First, submission of airflow rate data is optional and so not very many users provide it. Second, it’s notoriously difficult to collect consistent, accurate information on ventilation rates in labs (whether required minimum ventilation rates or actual ventilation rates). Third, it’s often not the case that the current minimum ventilation rate used for a given lab is a true functional requirement of the lab.



Is it better to benchmark my buildings based on site or source energy consumption?

To compare the energy usage of different buildings, it is helpful to combine energy usage data from different sources (e.g. electricity, district chilled water, natural gas) into a single building energy consumption metric. A number of metrics are in common use: site energy includes only the energy consumed at the building itself; source energy also includes the energy used to generate and transmit the energy used on site; and CO2 emissions and energy cost, both typically closely related to source energy consumption, are also used frequently. No single metric is the best approach for all situations.

If you’re only benchmarking against buildings with the same energy sources (e.g. if all buildings in the benchmarking sample are connected to the same campus central plant) then it doesn’t matter too much whether site or source energy consumption is used. Otherwise, and certainly when using the Labs21 tool, source energy is the better basis for comparison. The dataset contains buildings with many varied energy sources, and a comparison based on site energy will tend to introduce distortions because the site energy usage of some buildings includes the energy used to generate utilities (e.g. if the building contains chillers or boilers) while for others it does not (e.g. chilled water or steam received from a central plant).

The use of source energy as a metric for comparison acts to alleviate these distortions. The Labs21 tool uses standard Energy Star conversion factors between site and source energy. The use of standard factors means that the efficiencies of individual central plants are not taken into account. This approach is preferable because it provides a more equitable comparison between the lab buildings themselves and not the district energy plants to which they are connected.



Can I benchmark individual labs within my building?

No. The tool is designed to be used with whole building energy usage data and it should not be used for individual labs within buildings.



Why don't my filtering checkboxes stay checked when I modify the search terms?

We have noticed that too. It’s an issue when using the Chrome browser. We hope it’s not too annoying.



Why can't I filter based on building properties, e.g. VAV HVAC system or exhaust heat recovery?

Building system properties such as these are optional data entries, which naturally means that users don’t often enter them. We will periodically reassess whether enough data have been collected to permit meaningful filtering based on building properties and will add this feature in future if warranted.


Improving the Labs21 Tool


How can I suggest improvements to the Labs21 benchmarking tool?

Please contact the I2SL Lab Benchmarking Working Group with suggestions and/or bug reports. And please remember that this is a group of volunteers so be nice!



What’s with the new look?

We’re glad you noticed! In 2016, LBNL and the I2SL Lab Benchmarking Working Group collaborated to make some much-needed upgrades to the appearance of the tool and some tweaks to its functionality. We hope you like the new look.



Who maintains the Labs21 Benchmarking Tool?

The tool has been hosted on LBNL’s servers since its launch in 2002. Maintenance and upgrades are handled collaboratively by LBNL technical staff and volunteers from the I2SL Lab Benchmarking Working Group.



I am interested in lab benchmarking and would like to volunteer my talents to improve the Labs21 Tool -- how do I help?

Great! Please contact the I2SL Lab Benchmarking Working Group to join a group call or to volunteer.



Are there any more planned upgrades for the Labs21 tool?

We have a long wish-list of future improvements to the Labs21 tool. Stay tuned!



Can I benchmark a lab building's water usage using the Labs21 tool?

Not yet. This feature is planned for future versions of the Labs21 tool.



I'm interested in funding enhancements to this website -- who should I contact?

Great! Please contact the I2SL Lab Benchmarking Working Group. We will be very happy to hear from you!


Why use the Benchmarking Tool?

What is benchmarking?

Benchmarking means a number of different things in different contexts, even within the energy efficiency world. The Labs21 tool is an example of whole-building energy benchmarking. The tool allows comparison of energy use intensity between buildings with nominally similar functional requirements.



What is meant by a building's "functional requirements?"

Functional requirements are the services a building must provide for its occupants. Examples of functional requirements include location, lab type, lab square footage, hours of occupancy, and number of fume hoods. When comparing building energy intensity, it makes sense to compare buildings with similar functional requirements. Some buildings meet these requirements more efficiently than others. Examples of building properties that are not functional requirements include HVAC system type, use of exhaust air heat recovery, and fume hood control strategy. Note that it can still be very interesting to compare buildings with similar system types.



Why should I benchmark my lab building(s)?

There are a number of good reasons to benchmark building energy usage. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Prioritizing attention within a portfolio of buildings
  • AIA 2030 reporting
  • LEED O&M certification
  • ASHRAE energy audits
  • Providing context for public energy disclosure data
  • Research and policy development
  • Starting a conversation on building energy consumption



The AIA 2030 Commitment refers me to Labs21 to develop a “regional average” for my laboratory building project. How do I use the Labs21 tool for this purpose?

The 2030 Commitment is an excellent use for benchmarking data. The guidance for using the Labs21 tool for LEED O&M is also applicable to the 2030 Commitment. As described in that document, we recommend applying filtering criteria in a progressive manner until either a) all relevant criteria are selected or b) a minimum sample size (at least 12 comparables) is reached. It is important to maintain a minimum dataset for the data to be relevant; benchmarking against a small sample risks distorting the baseline. For obvious reasons, we recommend excluding estimated data. This is particularly important for the 2030 Commitment, a program that requires comparison to a statistical average of measured building performance data.

For very specialized projects with unusually energy-intensive performance criteria that the Labs21 tool does not currently capture (e.g. cleanroom-dominated buildings), firms sometimes use engineering judgements based on their energy models rather than using Labs21 data. We recommend contacting the AIA 2030 Commitment administrators for additional guidance in these rare cases.



Can this tool be used for LEED O&M?

Yes. Please see this document for guidance on how to use the tool for LEED O&M certification. Please note that although this document was written some time ago, the procedure described is still valid.



I'm a researcher interested in lab benchmarking. Can you send me the raw data?

No. You are welcome to use the publicly available (anonymized) data using the filtering tools on the site, but we cannot share the raw data.