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KU launches “Shut the Sash” program to cut energy cost

Monday, April 18, 2016

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas Center for Sustainability is leading a new initiative called Shut the Sash as part of an innovative program designed to reduce energy consumption and costs at the university’s research laboratories.

Shut the Sash will be monitored by a newly formed Green Team at the Multidisciplinary Research Building to encourage researchers to save energy through the simple act of closing laboratory fume hoods. The Green Team is made up of staff and students in MRB who volunteer to encourage staff, faculty and students to make their laboratories and workplaces more sustainable.

“Our conservation efforts focus on opportunities that reduce energy consumption while creating more comfortable and productive work environments,” said Center for Sustainability Director Jeff Severin. “Encouraging researchers to shut the sash is one way to reduce energy use and reinforce standard safety practices without disrupting the lab environment.”

The “sash” is a fume hood, a boxlike piece of safety equipment with a movable window, designed to capture, contain and exhaust hazardous fumes, limiting the exposer to the user. For health and safety reasons, laboratories use outside air, and vast quantities of electricity are needed to move the fresh air through the buildings as well as to heat or cool it. As a result, a single fume hood can consume as much energy as 3.5 average homes per year, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL).

“While scientific research is important for our well-being, caring for future generations should always be considered in our day-to-day habits.  We can all make a difference, and they will remember us for it," said Christopher Omelon, associate researcher in the Department of Geology.

Shut the Sash began April 1 and concentrates on 45 fume hoods in MRB. The program's success will be measured by comparing data collected before and during the six-week campaign using monitoring software that shows sash positions in real time.

Among the tools being used in the campaign are reminder stickers on each sash as well as signs at laboratory exits. Emails are sent out weekly, and posters with updated results are shared to let the labs know if they are on track to reduce their sash heights.  Additionally, a volunteer in each lab was recruited to help remind others of the importance of keeping the sash closed.

Approximately 750,000 fume hoods are in use in the U.S. today. LBL estimates the annual operating cost of U.S. fume hoods at approximately $4.2 billion, with a corresponding peak electrical demand of 5,100 megawatts. 

For more information about “Shut the Sash”, visit energy.ku.edu/ShutTheSash.