NREL's Solar Energy Research Facility (SERF) is a research facility used to develop technologies for converting sunlight into electricity. Completed in October 1993, SERF houses approximately 190 employees in 42 laboratories, conducting research on photovoltaic (PV) technology, solar electricity, superconductivity, and related material and basic sciences.
The building consists of three adjoining modules. Each module has a laboratory pod in the back and an office pod in the front. The facility has two main levels and a basement level. A corridor runs through the space between the labs and the offices, enabling researchers to move from lab to lab without entering the area occupied by other staff members.
When it was designed in 1992, SERF's annual energy costs were predicted to be 30% lower than a 10CFR435 (federal) reference case. Today (based on data collected in 2002), its energy use is still very close to the 1992 predicted levels. The building has experienced an increase in both occupants and equipment, causing an increase in energy use. However, this was more or less negated through smart retrofits and changes in controls so that the building still operates using approximately 30% less energy than the reference case.
The project's long axis faces a few degrees east of due south to capitalize on sunlight for heating and daylighting. This design allows extensive daylighting in the office. Other environmental features include energy-efficient lighting, direct evaporative cooling, a heat recovery system to pre-condition incoming fresh air, oversized cooling towers to provide indirect evaporative cooling, window glazing and automatic controls, and a Trombe wall.