published & featured news icon - talking bubble

Soto and Phillips featured in Lab Manager

Feb 3, 2023

Crystal Soto, LEED AP, Architectural Designer, and Joe Phillips, Senior Lab Planner, explore sustainable alternatives in vivaria. The CRB duo dives into why some labs are switching to aquariums and what that switch means for lab managers, lab planning and facility teams.

Mammalian vivaria are traditionally energy and resource-intensive facilities due to high air change rates, animal wellness and housing needs, cleaning and sterilization, and human safety. These traditional vivarium facilities also lack the ability to recover used water or air, both must be conditioned and discarded. There is a lot to be desired from a sustainability standpoint for these facilities. However, an aquatic research trend presents an excellent opportunity to make vivarium research more sustainable.

Some research labs are making the switch from a mammalian vivarium to an aquatic vivarium housing zebrafish. This switch allows for significant reductions in energy, resource, and waste.

“The primary benefits found in the aquatic vivarium are a result of housing conditions and maintenance. Aquatic species do not generate airborne hazards to human health, which are prevalent in mammalian operations; as a result, ventilation requirements can be reduced to those used for constant temperature and human comfort. These reductions can reduce the energy required for air conditioning by half. While water is the medium in which aquatic species live, water use can be reduced by even greater cuts.”

Converting a mammalian vivarium to an aquatic vivarium requires a project team that is ready to take on the switch. This includes:

  • Strong communication between research and operations
  • An understanding of the budget and schedule necessary
  • Consider the supply chain for specialized materials and equipment
“The lab manager should be completely engaged in the process. Awareness of the status of the project requires the lab manager to budget time to regularly engage in meetings and reviews of the facility design and construction process. The participation of the lab manager is a vital key to project success.”