Shut the Sash 2018

Fume hoods at UBC consume up to 10 per cent of campus energy due to the large volume of air that needs to be heated or cooled and moved through the hoods. Read our FAQs below to learn more about the Shut the Sash competition and why shutting the sash makes a difference.

What is Shut the Sash?

A six-week competition to save energy through one simple action—closing laboratory fume hoods.

When & where is the competition?

This year’s Shut the Sash will run from October 15 to November 25 in Chemistry D and Chemistry E.* Labs will be competing to save the most energy.

*Because of the number of fume hoods, use patterns and building systems, savings opportunities in Chemistry D & E are highest. Interested to start a competition in your department? Contact us at

Learn about other energy conservation opportunities in labs.

How can I save the most?

It’s simple:

  • Finished an experiment? Shut the Sash!
  • Taking a break? Shut the Sash!
  • Leaving for the day? Shut the Sash!
  • Last person out? Check that all sashes are closed
  • Remind your lab mates to Shut the Sash!

How and what can we win?

There are two ways for your lab to win one of two $200 prizes* to celebrate your success:

  1. Most Improved: The lab with the biggest improvement in sash best practice during the competition compared to baseline wins the prize.
  2. Lowest average sash height: To win this category your lab will have achieved the lowest average exhaust rates over the competition period.

Win the spirit trophy! Demonstrate your team’s enthusiasm and collective spirit for Shut the Sash by completing spirit challenge tasks. Your lab will be awarded points for each activity completed. The lab with the greatest number of points wins the spirit trophy. Learn more here.

Please adhere to safe lab protocols; teams engaging in unsafe practices to minimize fume hood usage will result in the team being disqualified from the competition.

Teams that tamper with other lab’s fume hoods (ex. open them without permission), or otherwise compromise their chance of winning, will also be disqualified.

*please note, award may not be used to purchase alcohol

How will you determine the winner?

Over the last year Green Labs has been tracking fume hoods through the building management system to establish baseline use patterns. Specifically, we look at the exhaust rate for each fume hood which changes in proportion to the height of the sash. In other words, the lower the sash, the less air that is exhausted. We will continue to collect this data throughout the competition and compare it to baseline patterns.

Use summary and ranking will be shared periodically for each lab. Random spot checks will be conducted.

What if my experiment has cords or tubes?

Some experiments involve power cords or tubing that prevents full closure of the sash. In most cases, if sashes are closed to the cord/tube, your participation will not be significantly impacted.

Fume hood and energy FAQs

Why do fume hoods use so much energy?

An open fume hood uses as much energy as 3.5 homes!  Well, it’s not the fume hood itself, it’s the air being sucked through it.

For health and safety reasons, labs use 100 per cent outside air. That entire volume of air first has to be heated with steam (i.e. natural gas) or cooled by a chiller (i.e. electricity) to make it a comfortable temperature before it is brought into the lab.  A lot of electricity is also required to run large supply and exhaust fans that move the air through the building and through the fume hoods.

How does shutting the sash save energy?

Variable air volume (VAV) fume hoods are designed to maintain a constant face velocity across the sash opening.  Sash position is connected to the building’s HVAC system so that the fan speed and the volume of air are reduced when the sash is lowered.

VAV fume hoods are mostly found in newer labs at UBC that have been recently constructed or renovated.  While only labs with VAV fume hoods have been invited to participate in Shut the Sash, it’s best practice for all fume hood users to lower the sash when not in use.

Is it safe to shut the sash?

The sash is an important safety barrier between the fume hood interior and the laboratory, protecting the lab user.  Sashes should be opened only to set up or modify an experiment. At all other times, shutting the sash is safest.  When the sash is shut there is still some air flow through the hood to remove any fumes.

When should I shut the sash?

Shut the sash whenever you are not actively working in the fume hood.  Remind yourself to shut the sash every time you walk away from the hood.

What other fume hood practices can reduce my energy consumption?

First of all, never use a fume hood just for storing chemicals – they belong in a safety cabinet, which doesn’t use huge volumes of air.  If your fume hood has an occupancy switch, turn it off when not in use.  If your group is no longer using a specific fume hood, consider having it locked and de-commissioned so air no longer flows through it.

How do you calculate energy savings of the competition?

We compare the fume hoods’ air flow during the competition to the baseline period before the competition.  This is monitored through the building management system which samples and stores data every few minutes. We then calculate the energy needed to heat, cool, and move that air.   The more you shut your sash, the more air flow is reduced, and the less energy you lose!

You can check out an interactive fume hood energy calculator here:

Question or Comments?