Did you know that although laboratories take up only 9% of UVA’s space, they’re responsible for 25% of energy consumption on Grounds? This imbalance is largely due to the combination of ventilation needs and the use of large, energy-intensive equipment in laboratories such as freezers and chemical fume hoods. 


What are fume hoods?

Chemical fume hoods (CFHs) serve the important function of keeping researchers safe from harmful substances, but in order to do so, they move large volumes of air through the hood ventilation system.  This process can use as much energy as 3.5 households in a single day (My Green Lab). Simply closing the fume hood sash, the barrier between the workspace within the hood and the larger lab, can reduce the energy burden of fume hoods.

"There's a lot of folklore surrounding chemical fume hoods and we sometimes hear that researchers were once instructed to leave them open for lab ventilation purposes,” said Christine Alencar, the Smart Labs Project Associate with UVA’s Office for Sustainability. “The experts in UVA's Environmental Health and Safety Office assure us that, according to national standards for lab ventilation (ANSI/AIHA Z9.5), shutting the sash is the safest thing for researchers and lab employees."


What is Shut the Sash? 

Back in 2017, the Office for Sustainability hosted UVA’s first “Shut the Sash” fume hood competition in collaboration with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety. This friendly competition helps labs set and meet goals for fume hood management. Not only does this promote safe and sustainable lab practices, but participants are also eligible to win a handful of prizes!

During the last Shut the Sash Challenge in 2019, two labs were recognized for their hard work: the Owens Lab in the Cardiovascular Research Center and the Letteri Lab in Chemical Engineering. Through their efforts, participating labs in Wilsdorf Hall achieved a 51% reduction in their average sash positions - an impact certainly worth celebrating. 


How can I get involved?

You can register your lab for the Shut the Sash Challenge by September 30th by clicking this link! Feel free to share it with neighboring labs and fellow researchers to stoke some friendly competition. At the end of October, winners will receive prizes and be recognized on the Sustainable UVA blog and social media channels.

Flyer explaining the Shut the Sash Challenge


“There are lots of ways to encourage sustainability in your lab” enthused Fiona Hogan, UVA Green Labs Specialist, “So if you’re interested in other work that UVA Green Labs does, check out our website for more information and lots of helpful resources. You can also tune in to the Sustainable UVA Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter every Lab Tuesday to learn more about lab sustainability.”


Have questions about the Shut the Sash Challenge? Email greenlabs@virginia.edu

Labs are advised to contact UVA Environmental Health and Safety with any questions regarding chemical and fume hood safety.