The upcoming improvements to the Sterling Hall of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine are providing an opportunity to explore potential standards for making laboratory renovations environmentally-friendly.

The renovation of the third floor of the C wing of the hall, work which is slated to begin in April, will be used to develop a blueprint for appropriate environmental standards when renovating laboratory buildings. The project has received a $40,000 grant from the Yale Green Fund to develop guidelines similar to existing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

LEED standards measure how environmentally-friendly both the construction process and finished building are, according to six different categories — the site’s sustainability, the building’s water efficiency, the building’s energy efficiency, use of materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and the use of innovation in design.

The standards are provided by the U.S. Green Building Council, a highly-respected, well-established environmental organization in the country, which builders consult when planning to undertake an environmentally-responsible project.

LEED standards do not currently exist for laboratory renovations. The environmentalists, architects and University officials involved hope that guidelines developed through this project can be used for future laboratory renovations at the University and elsewhere, said Wen Lin, a project manager for project management and construction at the Medical School.

“There is no criteria for lab renovation under the LEED criteria,” Lin said. “What we’re looking at is to follow the commercial criteria [currently available] — and in working with the Green Council to come up with a criteria for a lab renovation.”

Jay Brotman — one of the architects from Sviglas and Partners, the firm involved in the project — said they are using existing commercial renovation criteria as a starting point.

“[The USGB has] checklists and ways to evaluate buildings to look at use of energy and water and materials and so forth, and to give it a rating for environmental responsibility,” said Thomas Graedel.

Graedel is chair of Yale’s Advisory Committee on Environment Management, which recommended that this study receive money from the Yale Green Fund.

“They have never had anything comparable for buildings that are renovated, or unusual buildings like laboratories, and that’s what Yale does more of than building new buildings,” he said.

Virginia Chapman, the director of project management and construction at the Medical School, said the currently available standards must be augmented for laboratory construction because laboratories require greater energy use and airflow.

“We’re looking to doing — those things that make the space better for people — some of those are access to natural light, access to views,” Brotman said. “Certain paint and material give off gases, so we’re not using those types of materials — We’re also trying to use materials that are easily renewable or recyclable.”

In addition to this renovation’s role in improving sustainability on campus, Graedel said he hopes the knowledge gleaned from this experience will be applicable to future building projects.

“What we think, is not only that the particular building that is being addressed by the project will be better than it would otherwise be, but [the project] will tell us an awful lot about how to build other buildings of similar type around Yale,” Graedel said. “[We’re] not limited to this one building, but the next ten or twenty years will bring us more buildings.”

The labs under renovation are those of Medical School Neurobiology chairman Pasko Rakic. Rakic’s labs study the cellular and molecular processes that dictate the development of the central nervous systems in mammals.