Here’s How Climatetech and Safety Go Hand-in-hand at Greentown

Greentown Labs is proudly home to more than 200 climatetech startups, each of which is developing groundbreaking solutions to decarbonize the global economy and build resilient communities. And what comes with never-before-seen prototyping? Never-before-seen safety puzzles.

About 50 of our startups are at work in our prototyping labs, electronics labs, machine shops, and wet lab. Whenever any of them need to introduce hazardous materials, equipment, or techniques, they come to Greentown’s Safety Team to determine how they can do so prudently.

If you’re picturing an opaque process with a unilateral decision and a “rejected” dead end: this is not your typical safety review board. 

“We go into every conversation with the attitude that our goal is to make this happen, we will do everything in our power to support your work,” says Carey Ann Comeau, our director of wet lab operations.

Safety at Greentown is collaborative to its core. Our safety team engages with members to explore what levers we can pull to help them carry out their work—knowing that 1) while we may be the experts on safety, our entrepreneurs are the experts on their technologies, and 2) startups need to move fast.

In fact, our safety team has learned invaluably from our members over the years; we’ve supported more than 450 startups, and each time we work with a startup to solve a safety challenge we add to our body of knowledge.

While the safety team is officially six Greentown employees, we often say that the entire Greentown community is on the safety team. How can that be? 

“Safety’s a cornerstone of the Greentown culture,” says Joubin Hatamzadeh, senior vice president of operations.

It’s not just a line: we truly embed safety into our community fabric, and engage our members in the process. Every startup that has lab space chooses a member of its team to be its safety representative. These safety reps undergo Greentown and OSHA and HAZMAT trainings, are the safety point-persons for their company, and meet monthly with their fellow reps to connect and inspire new safety solutions. They also give and receive safety peer audits, offering a set of fresh eyes and conversations on how to best manage their spaces safely.

Safety trainings aren’t only for safety reps, however—we offer many trainings throughout the year that are open to all lab members. Think: First AID, AED, and CPR, Respirator Awareness, and a Greentown favorite—RCRA Training focused on hazardous waste management and care. Last year, 66 unique members from 24 startups attended these trainings.

All these components of Greentown’s safety program work together to not only empower our members to do the work they need to advance their technologies, but also to become safety leaders, at Greentown and beyond. Each company may one day scale to employ thousands or manage megawatts of energy generation, distribution, or usage; we aim to help them develop a safety foundation that will support them as they scale.

“Safety goes beyond the evaluation of member work to ensure it is safe—our role is to constantly promote awareness and train our community,” says Hatamzadeh. “Safety is the labor of love by a safety team that thrives to enable our members to achieve their goals, mitigate safety risks, save time, save money, and eventually graduate as mindful safety advocates.”

Case Study

IVYS logo

The Startup

Ivys Energy Solutions, a provider of clean-fuels infrastructure solutions for fleet applications.

The Prototyping Project

Ivys and Greentown worked together to deploy Ivys’ SimpleFuel technology—a hydrogen generation and dispensing appliance that turns water and electricity into high-purity, fuel-cell-grade hydrogen—on-site at Greentown HQ.

The Safety Solution

••• The hydrogen refueling station is outside, making the venting strategy and hydrogen storage considerations much easier than they would be indoors. ••• The station is set up to receive significant facilities support from the Greentown building, including water and high-voltage electricity—all done to code and with significant review. ••• Ivys and Greentown worked together to develop an emergency response plan, which every Greentown member gets basic training on during new member orientation. ••• The station is tied into Greentown’s fire alarm panel and annunciation system. ••• Greentown supported Ivys by adding the station’s compressed hydrogen to Greentown’s flammables permit. ••• Ivys and Greentown trained more than 100 firefighters from the Somerville Fire Department—the local authority having jurisdiction—on hydrogen safety.

Learn more about Ivys Energy Solutions

Case Study

The Startup

Daniel Consulting Group (DCG), a battery technology consulting firm focused on all aspects of battery testing and development.

The Prototyping Project

Battery performance and cycle-life testing

The Safety Solution

••• DCG has several environmental chambers and battery cyclers set up to support battery and cell testing from -20°C to 40°C. ••• Engineering controls: Every device on test has a dedicated thermocouple attached to it and is encased in a high-temperature ceramic material to prevent propagation to the surrounding cells and batteries in the case of a thermal runaway event. ••• Administrative controls: The test scripts constantly monitor each battery’s temperature, voltage, and current and automatically send it to a safe condition if any potential issues are detected.

Learn more about DCG

Meet the Safety Team

Kay Lowden

Senior Manager of Safety

Gregory Ralich

Vice President of Lab and Safety

Joubin Hatamzadeh

Chief Operating Officer

Hallie Fowler

Director of Prototyping Lab