This publication details the design, implementation strategies, and continuous performance monitoring of NREL's Research Support Facility data center.
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McGraw Hill Construction Continuing Education Article December 2010 - This article discusses the energy efficiency and cost competitiveness of the Research Support Facility.
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.
Few third-party guidance documents or tools are available for evaluating thermal energy storage (TES) integrated with packaged air conditioning (AC), as this type of TES is relatively new compared to TES integrated with chillers or hot water systems. To address this gap, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted a project to improve the ability of potential technology adopters to evaluate TES technologies. Major project outcomes included: development of an evaluation framework to describe key metrics, methodologies, and issues to consider when assessing the performance of TES systems integrated with packaged AC; application of multiple concepts from the evaluation framework to analyze performance data from four demonstration sites; and production of a new simulation capability that enables modeling of TES integrated with packaged AC in EnergyPlus. This report includes the evaluation framework and analysis results from the project.
Cooling loads must be dramatically reduced when designing net-zero energy buildings or other highly efficient facilities. Advances in this area have focused primarily on reducing a building’s sensible cooling loads by improving the envelope, integrating properly sized daylighting systems, adding exterior solar shading devices, and reducing internal heat gains. As sensible loads decrease, however, latent loads remain relatively constant, and thus become a greater fraction of the overall cooling requirement in highly efficient building designs, particularly in humid climates. This shift toward latent cooling is a challenge for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. Traditional systems typically dehumidify by first overcooling air below the dew-point temperature and then reheating it to an appropriate supply temperature, which requires an excessive amount of energy. Another dehumidification strategy incorporates solid desiccant rotors that remove water from air more efficiently; however, these systems are large and increase fan energy consumption due to the increased airside pressure drop of solid desiccant rotors. A third dehumidification strategy involves high flow liquid desiccant systems. These systems require a high maintenance separator to protect the air distribution system from corrosive desiccant droplet carryover and so are more commonly used in industrial applications and rarely in commercial buildings. Both solid desiccant systems and most high-flow liquid desiccant systems (if not internally cooled) add sensible energy which must later be removed to the air stream during dehumidification, through the release of sensible heat during the sorption process.
"By providing a direct link to the dynamic and perpetually evolving patterns of outdoor illumination, daylighting helps create a visually stimulating and productive environment for building occupants, while reducing as much as one-third of total building energy costs."
"Effective use of daylight is essential in achieving a sustainable building design. The size of a glazed window is proportional to the level of daylight and depends on the proper integration of both window area and glass properties. Improperly designed windows could not only lead to poor illumination in building interiors, but may also cause fatigue, depression, and inefficient energy usage."