Software monitoring saved a San Diego pharmaceutical lab 45% in energy costs.

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry consumes nearly $1 billion in energy annually. Lab facilities often have environmental and cleanroom requirements that call for 24/7 HVAC. As a result, HVAC can consume as much as 65% of a facility’s total energy use. This makes HVAC a prime target for energy efficiency initiatives.

Rising energy prices and a strong emphasis on corporate social responsibility led a top pharmaceutical company to seek out innovative technologies to reduce energy consumption in its San Diego research lab. The company turned to Randall Lamb, a consulting and engineering services firm headquartered in San Diego and known for its expertise in sustainable and energy efficient design and engineering.

Randall Lamb conducted an extensive evaluation of the pharmaceutical facility and found that the existing chilled water plant, which consisted of a primary-secondary pumping configuration and two 400-ton centrifugal chillers approximately eight years old, was operating at an average of 1.60 kW/ton. Randall Lamb recognized that redesigning the HVAC system for better energy efficiency would play a major role in meeting the company’s environmental goals.


Optimum Energy’s efficiency engineering team worked closely with Randall Lamb to redesign the system to be an all variable speed, primary-only centrifugal HVAC plant using the existing chillers. In order to maximize the energy efficiency potential of the system’s all variable-speed capabilities, Optimum Energy’s OptimumHVAC energy reduction solution also was employed.

OptimumHVAC is a patented software solution that permanently reduces the amount of energy used to heat and cool large commercial buildings by 30% to 60%. OptimumHVAC software saves energy by automatically calculating the most efficient sequencing of HVAC system equipment to provide comfort conditioning based on real-time building loads. OptimumHVAC also enables persistent reductions by continuously measuring and verifying plant performance via a Web-based service.


With OptimumHVAC’s continuous, automatic optimization based on real-time building loads, and ongoing measurement, verification and management services, the first year energy savings exceeded expectations by 45%, and facility managers have the real-time operating data they need to verify and sustain those savings month after month.

In the first year with OptimumHVAC, the pharmaceutical company realized a savings of 1,140,600 kWh of energy, for an annual reduction in operating expenses of $171,000, and in carbon emissions of more than 1,185,100 lbs. The chiller plant’s average kW/ton was reduced to 0.67 kW/ton from 1.60 kW/ton, a reduction of 58%. As an added perk, payback for the entire project, including hardware upgrades and OptimumHVAC, is expected to be only 2.3 years.

Prior to redesigning the plant relied only on equipment alarms, physical plant inspections, or scheduled maintenance to detect issues within the system. Because the energy performance was not measured in the conventionally operated plant, degradation in system performance and efficiency would go undetected for long periods of time, resulting in the phenomenon commonly known as performance “drift.” OptimumHVAC gave the operators the information and analysis capabilities they need to continuously maintain and optimize the performance of their HVAC system, mitigate drift and ensure energy reductions persist year after year.

“With OptimumHVAC, not only were we able to get optimal efficiency from our client’s HVAC system, the first-year savings exceeded expectations by 45%,” said Chris Weixelman, associate principal at Randall Lamb. “The ability to track operating performance online has also been very positive, enabling our client to see the savings in real time and continuously maintain the plant for peak performance.”ES