Heather Lammers, NREL
January 29, 2013 | 0 Comments
The Research Support Facility (RSF) at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has hosted thousands of visitors since it opened as one of the world's largest high performance office buildings. Generating buzz about the energy savings possible in commercial buildings is exactly what DOE and NREL have been aiming for.
"I'm thrilled that NREL is jumping out in front on issues like this," said Hayes, who was lab director of the Solar Energy Research Institute in the late 1970s and early 1980s, prior to the name change to NREL in 1991. "NREL's research and development has always been its strength, but there's something about actually living what you preach. And, just as important, NREL paid special attention to the economics of it."
The first tenants of the Bullitt Center will begin moving in next month; the grand opening is scheduled for April 22, which is Earth Day.
Planning a High Performance Building for Salt Lake City
Seattle isn't the only city that will see NREL's vision on its skyline.
"It may sound corny, but after seeing the RSF, it really was the first day of the second half of my career," said Kenner Kingston, director of sustainability for ARCHITECTURAL NEXUS, INC. "I saw the integration at RSF, the total comprehensive thinking, and thought, 'I've got to get involved in a project that's going in this direction.'"
When a municipal client in the Salt Lake City, Utah, area asked him to design an administrative office space, Kingston knew the RSF would help sell his client on the idea of going for high performance design. "Usually, when I see another net-zero building talked about, it's always on the coast or in Hawaii — somewhere with a temperate climate. The RSF is particularly relevant because it is in a high mountain desert."
Kingston also brought his client out to the RSF so they could see firsthand what was possible. "They came back with validation, feeling like it was what they wanted to do. The RSF became the measuring stick that was referred to over and over again while planning the project."
As was the case for the RSF, daylighting is an absolute for the building design that Kingston is working on. "On this project, the ratio of closed to open offices is 50-50," Kingston said. "This created a unique challenge since we were trying to put the closed offices on the north side of the building; in this case, we needed two north sides."
To solve the dilemma, the design now includes a capped light well in the center of the building so the planners could have two north elevations. The light well is unconditioned space that draws the sun five stories into the building. "It makes the daylighting possible from the inside of the building, and we don't get the temperature swings of an exterior space," he added. "Even after I'm done with this project, I'll be on the hunt for the next net-zero opportunity in our neck of the woods, and I'll again use the RSF as an example of what can be done."
Cornell University Looks to Build a Living Lab in NYC
An opportunity to build a campus in the heart of New York City doesn't come along often. But on the southern end of Roosevelt Island, administrators with Cornell University are carefully planning out a 12-acre campus focused on educating the next generation of students to conduct cutting-edge research on a living model of sustainable development.
The Cornell NYC Tech campus will be built out in several phases, with groundbreaking for the first phase slated for 2014. Part of the first phase will be a four-story, 150,000-square-foot academic facility that will be the flagship building for the campus. The first academic building is being designed to be high performing and very energy efficient. On-site renewable energy is being studied to determine the feasibility of making it net-zero energy.
"We had an opportunity with a whole new campus to figure out a plan to make our first net-zero academic building," said Robert R. Bland, senior director for energy and sustainability with Cornell University. "We've had quite a bit of input from NREL, and my visit to the RSF showed me the opportunities to be deeply energy efficient. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is partnering with us and contributing funding to the design effort."
The first academic building will use multiple approaches for achieving energy efficiency, including photovoltaics and geothermal. When complete, Cornell NYC Tech will include approximately 2 million square feet of academic, residential, and corporate research and development space and will house more than 2,000 graduate students along with faculty and staff.
But even more exciting than the opportunity to create a sustainable campus is the opportunity to educate and guide students at the university. "We would like to make this a living laboratory for graduate students to research and advance our academic mission in the built environment," Bland said. "We want to make it inspirational and educational."
Already, seven teams of students are involved in the campus planning and design. In the future, the buildings will be studied with intensive energy modeling and monitoring. "We'll do real-time monitoring, and we intend to create a smart microgrid on campus," Bland added. "It's really exciting to be able to work on a new academic model."
All these examples mean Pless sees a road to success for high performance buildings — and fewer days as a tour guide for the RSF.
"I'm excited to see the industry start to pick this up and run with it, without us being actively involved in each project," Pless said. "When I no longer have to answer calls about projects or give tours, I'll know that we've succeeded."
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