McGraw Hill Construction Continuing Education Article December 2010 - This article discusses the energy efficiency and cost competitiveness of the Research Support Facility.
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The Research Support Facility is designed to be one of the world's largest net-zero energy buildings. It incorporates new technologies and techniques and draws on centuries-old concepts. Its operable windows allow natural ventilation. It monitors indoor and outdoor temperatures and displays messages on each computer about opening or closing windows.
At the time this Wall Street Journal article was published, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory was midway through construction of a $64 million project to be the greenest office building in the nation. This article explores efforts by architects and engineers who spent hundreds of hours calculating the energy use of every aspect of the building, from the elevator to the exit signs.
The U.S. Department of Energy hopes lessons learned from the Research Support Facility will help guide green-construction practices around the world. Outside experts in efficient construction point out that some of the technology used at NREL is best suited for high-sunlight, low-humidity climates such as Colorado and would not work nearly as well elsewhere. The building also demands a lot from its employees, who must adjust to fluctuating temperatures throughout the day and pop up from their desks to open and shut windows; a workforce less dedicated to energy efficiency might rebel.
This article describes many energy efficiency features of the Research Support Facility and the adjustments employees need to make.
This paper illustrates the challenges of integrating rigorous daylight and electric lighting simulation data with whole-building energy models, and defends the need for such integration in order to achieve aggressive energy savings in building designs. Through a case study example, we examine the ways daylighting – and daylighting simulation – drove the design of a large net-zero energy project.
It is still early in the collection and analysis of energy performance data, but it is already clear that high-performance commercial buildings—some "almost net-zero buildings"—can be constructed cost effectively, providing productive environments for occupants, reducing operating costs, and enhancing the competitiveness of commercial properties.
This paper reviews the novel procurement, acquisition, and contract process of a large-scale replicable net zero energy (ZEB) office building. The owners (who are also commercial building energy efficiency researchers) developed and implemented an energy performance based design-build process to procure an office building with contractual requirements to meet demand side energy and LEED goals. The key procurement steps needed to ensure achievement of the energy efficiency and ZEB goals using a replicable delivery process are outlined.
This paper documents the methodology developed to identify and reduce plug and process loads (PPLs) as part of NREL's Research Support Facility's (RSF) low energy design process. PPLs, including elevators, kitchen equipment in breakrooms, and office equipment in NREL’s previously occupied office spaces were examined to determine a baseline. This, along with research into the most energy-efficient products and practices, enabled the formulation of a reduction strategy that should yield a 47% reduction in PPLs. The building owner and the design team played equally important roles in developing and implementing opportunities to reduce PPLs. Based on the work done in the RSF, a generalized multistep process has been developed for application to other buildings.
The Research Support Facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a 220,000-ft office building designed to serve 822 occupants, to use 35.1 kBtu/(ft2·yr), to use half the energy of an equivalent minimally code-compliant building, and eventually to produce as much renewable energy annually as it consumes. These goals and their substantiation through simulation were explicitly included in the fixed price design-build contract. The energy model had to be repeatedly updated to match design documents and the final building, as it was built, to the greatest degree practical. Computer modeling played a key role in diagnosing the energy impacts of program and decisions and in verifying that the contractual energy goals would be met within the specified budget. The primary tool used was a whole-building energy simulation program. Other simulation tools were used to provide more detail or to complement the primary tool as required by the delivery schedule, including tools to calculate thermal bridging, daylighting, natural ventilation, data center energy consumption, transpired solar collectors, thermal storage in the crawlspace, and electricity generation by photovoltaic panels. Results were either fed back into the main whole-building energy simulation tool or used to post-process model output to provide the most accurate annual simulations possible. This paper details the models used in the design process and how they informed important program and design decisions from design to completion.