With the recent addition of a grant, the Utah State University has launched a lab ventilation project to move forward with their resolution to become carbon neutral by 2050.

“We set a goal to … become carbon neutral by 2050,” Sustainability Coordinator Alexi Lamm said. “This feeds into that goal and then, in addition to that, the faculty and the students in their legislative bodies both asked the university to speed that up.”

The Edwards Mother Earth Foundation granted USU a one-year grant of $220,000 to help fund a pilot ventilation project for laboratory efficiency.

“This project would have probably been really hard to fund without the grant and probably wouldn’t have happened without the grant,” said USU Facilities Energy Manager Zac Cook.

According to Cook, the air quality in lab spaces is maintained by standard ventilation that can require the excess use of energy.

The project would install sensors to monitor the air quality in laboratory spaces in the Biology and Natural Resources and Agriculture Sciences Buildings to help customize ventilation needs for each laboratory.

Ventilation rates would be lower when the sensors determine the air quality is safe, while in the case of a chemical spill, it would increase ventilation, cleansing the air in the laboratory. Cook said each lab could customize which chemicals to detect to increase effectiveness.

In an email to The Herald Journal, Cook said the project is anticipated to substantially reduce annual carbon emissions.

“We anticipate a reduction of 723 metric tons of CO2 annually through reduced heating, cooling, and fan energy by incorporating the lab air quality monitoring system,” Cook wrote. “These emissions are roughly equivalent to the emissions of a typical passenger car traveling 1,767,726 miles.”

Cook said the hope is to use the pilot as a case study to gather data that show the savings so it might be incorporated in other laboratory spaces.

Lamm said it could take five to seven years to know the payback of the project.

Cook said they were looking into adding a third building but plans for that have not been finalized.

“Right now, we are looking to move forward on, reducing carbon and so forth, by working on efficiency,” Lamm said. “As it’s fiscal, we’re also working on the renewable side of it.”