One of the great challenges facing the U.S. Department of Energy is harnessing the power of its national laboratories in the post-cold-war era. With a workforce of more than 30,000 scientists and engineers and a world- class R&D infrastructure, the labs are a major national asset. Responding to Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary's Task Force on Alternative Futures for the Department of Energy National Laboratories, chaired by Robert Galvin, the Center for Building Science has reviewed its history of doing research for the benefit of the U.S. economy and the environment.
The Center has operated as a catalyst in the energy-efficiency marketplace for two decades, providing an extraordinary rate of return on the federal research investment. From the outset, the approach was not one of belt-tightening, but rather a coordinated technological and deployment-oriented strategy for doing more with less energy while saving money and protecting the environment. Partnerships with industry, utilities, government agencies, universities, and other national laboratories are an integral part of the story. LBL's specific accomplishments in the buildings sector demonstrate how the national labs can serve America today and into the next century.
Since the mid-1970s, a cumulative $70-million DOE research and development investment at LBL helped spawn a $2.5-billion annual U.S. market for four technologies and services. As of 1993, this R&D investment leveraged energy savings worth an estimated $5 billion to consumers ($1.3 billion in 1993 alone). By 2015, electronic ballasts, advanced glazing materials, and residential appliance standards will be saving consumers $16 billion annually. These and other savings will be made possible by new computer design tools, also developed at LBL.
LBL's broader role in the buildings arena includes analyzing public policy issues such as the role of efficiency options as a mitigation strategy for global climate change, developing planning and demand-side management methods used by electric and gas utilities, identifying technologies and analytical methods for improving indoor air quality, contributing to the information superhighway, and focusing on the special problems and opportunities presented by energy use in the public sector. These and other activities are conducted at the local, national, and international levels.
The electronic ballast is a technology that improves the efficiency of fluorescent lighting systems by up to 30% and enhances quality and flexibility. During the incubation of the electronic ballast industry in the late 1970s, LBL contracted with three small companies to produce early commercial models. The intent of this early effort was to accelerate the availability of electronic ballasts by demonstrating their energy efficiency and reliability in typical building environments. Later work at LBL helped improve the quality of the ballasts and validate the potential for energy savings from dimming. The current market share of electronic ballasts is 23% of all ballasts sold. More recent LBL efficient-lighting breakthroughs are now entering the market, including thermally efficient fluorescent fixtures (see CBS News, Winter, 1993, p. 4).
Although largely invisible to the human eye, windows with advanced coatings offer a one-third efficiency advantage over ordinary double-glazed windows by selectively blocking unwanted heat gain or loss. LBL's research began with researchers studying the heat-transfer mechanisms in windows and identifying technical opportunities for reducing those gains and losses. Based on the findings, LBL became a pioneer in the commercialization of "low- emissivity" windows, awarding subcontracts to several firms to develop prototype coatings and new low-cost thin-film deposition processes. The coatings' performance was tested at LBL and new computer models were developed to determine the best use of the coatings in the overall window system. By the mid-1980s, virtually every major manufacturer was offering low-E windows. LBL developed design concepts using two low-E coatings and new gas fills that would cut energy losses by an additional 50% compared to conventional low-E glazing. LBL then teamed with five manufacturers and suppliers (Andersen, Cardinal IG, Owens-Corning Fiberglas, Pella, and Southwall Technologies) and the Bonneville Power Administration in a program to convert the window concept into commercial prototypes. Within two years of this demonstration project, one of the participating manufacturers introduced the first commercial "superwindow," combining low-E coatings with energy-saving gas fills. The current market share of low-E glazings is 36% of all windows sold. The window industry's National Fenestration Rating Council recently adopted LBL's computer model (Window 4.1) as the definitive method of estimating window performance and creating energy labels for windows (see CBS News, Spring 1994).
LBL has become the national center for appliance standards analysis. Its program provides the technical, economic, utility, and manufacturer-impact analyses on which DOE bases mandatory standards that now apply to all major U.S. appliances and residential space-conditioning systems. In addition to technology-oriented research, the LBL program has provided pivotal support for understanding how the market functions and how certain market barriers to energy efficiency warrant the application of legislative measures such as standards and labeling. The current market share for standards is virtually all applicable equipment sold.
LBL's DOE-2 program is a powerful computer-based design tool for evaluating the energy implications of complex building design alternatives. Beginning in the mid-1970s, LBL worked with Los Alamos and Argonne national laboratories to develop the predecessor to DOE-2. The objective was an hourly whole-building energy analysis program that could simulate all building types in all climates and that was unbiased, well-documented, and open to public scrutiny. A private company, Consultants Computation Bureau, assisted with interface development and programming. Continued improvements have been supported by DOE, various utilities, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). A number of companies have converted DOE-2 into a PC-based program, or developed and marketed ancillary software. There are 1,000 users today, in 42 countries. DOE-2 is used in the design of about 5% of all commercial buildings by floorspace, and users report that it enables them to routinely identify an extra 20% energy-savings opportunity. The program has also been the basis of four major standards: California Title 24, the Building Energy Performance Standard, and the DOE/ASHRAE 90.1 and 90.2 standards for commercial and residential buildings.
Some energy-saving measures can create indoor air quality problems unless properly conceived and implemented. Mitigating these problems can waste energy, for example, through excess ventilation without heat recovery. The Center for Building Science has studied the "sick-building syndrome" in depth and houses one of the world's premier research groups on the environmental effects of indoor radon-the second largest cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Its research has uncovered basic insights into how radon gas from the soil gets into homes, helping craft national policy recommendations for more effectively and efficiently identifying regions where houses with elevated concentrations can be found, and once found, to utilize energy-efficient remediation techniques (see CBS News, Spring 1994; Summer 1994).
LBL's program has helped stimulate technologies and strategies for measuring and controlling indoor air pollution efficiently, including low- emission building materials and appliances, heat-recovery ventilation systems, blower-door technology (for testing air leakage in buildings), and energy- efficient radon control methods. A notable example: LBL's innovative "airvest" system promises to reduce spray-booth worker exposure to pollutants substantially while cutting ventilation energy costs in half (see CBS News, Winter 1993, p. 7). Researchers have also developed passive samplers for indoor air quality (for example, the formaldehyde-based air samplers now sold by Air Quality Research in North Carolina) and contributed to twelve national ASHRAE and ASTM standards pertaining to ventilation and air quality for the built environment.
President Clinton holds up a compact fluorescent lamp on Earth Day 1994. Early work by LBL on the electronic ballast helped pave the way for this technology.
Future directions in the lighting area include developing more efficient light sources such as the sulfur lamp, "tuning" the light spectrum to optimize visibility and reduce energy use, and analyzing market transformation programs for technologies like residential fixtures. LBL's advanced coating technology will lead to "smart windows" whose dynamic coatings change the windows from clear to reflective. Other work in progress updates existing efficiency standards, expands them into nonresidential end-use areas (such as thermal distribution, small motors, lighting ballasts, and HID lamps). The cooperative development of PowerDOE, a PC-based, user-friendly interface for DOE-2, and an expert system module called the Building Design Advisor (BDA, is continuing in a joint private/public collaboration with support from EPRI, utilities, the California Energy Commission, and DOE.
For a full copy of the report, From the Lab to the Marketplace. . ., please click here.
Center for Building Science
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