Exploring Grid-Interactive Efficient Building Strategies for Laboratories Through Energy Modeling

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Laboratories are often overlooked in demand flexibility research due to constraints on their operations as mission critical facilities, despite the major role they play in an organization's emissions. Laboratories consume 3-4 times more energy than a typical office building and are commonly the largest energy users on any campus. Consequently, most laboratories in the United States are significant contributors to their organization's carbon footprint if their energy needs are met through the combustion of fossil fuels. As part of the initiative to decarbonize laboratories, this report documents an analysis on specifically grid-interactive efficient building (GEB) opportunities for reducing energy costs and emissions associated with laboratory operations. The goal of this initiative was to provide a case study and guidance on how to use OpenStudio and REopt as modeling tools for GEB technologies and strategies in laboratory environments across different climate zones in the United States. The analysis found that efficiency-based GEB strategies had the most significant impact on laboratory operations, while load-shedding and load-shifting GEB strategies produced smaller results. The culmination of these approaches applied across all five climate zones generated on average: 1) 28% energy cost savings and 30% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, and 2) 4% enhanced energy cost savings under a time-of-use (TOU) pricing schedule compared to traditional pricing schemes. Grid-interactive efficiency building measures were found to produce the greatest energy savings in both electricity and natural gas, particularly in regions with high electrical loads, such as warm climates for cooling. Laboratories that had high levels of natural gas consumption, meanwhile, experienced the greatest emission reductions. The report concludes with an analysis on the opportunities for flexible loads in lab spaces and how small-scale measures in addition to opaque pricing structures for peak demand could become barriers to demand flexibility planning. The report also explores how electrifying laboratory buildings with heat pumps could reduce energy costs and GHG emissions.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages88
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-7A40-87141


  • demand flexibility
  • efficiency
  • energy modeling
  • lab
  • laboratory
  • peak demand
  • ventilation


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