CBS Newsletter
Summer 1997
pg. 2

The Future of Buildings Research at LBNL

An Interview with Mark Levine, Director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division

Mark Levine

Mark Levine

Mark Levine is the newly appointed Director of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division (formerly Energy & Environment). He was the head of the Energy Analysis Program from 1986 until his appointment in March. Levine received a B.S. in chemistry from Princeton, and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. Before joining Berkeley Lab in 1978, he was a staff scientist at the Ford Foundation Energy Project, and a senior energy policy analyst at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif. His current research interests include energy efficiency in China and global energy-demand studies. Levine is on the boards of several organizations, including the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Center for Clean Air Policy. He has recently been elected Chairman of the Board of the Center for Resource Solutions, a new nonprofit organization at the Presidio in San Francisco that will promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in developing countries.

Three of EETD's programs-Building Technologies, Energy Analysis and Indoor Environment-focus heavily on buildings research. In the following interview, Levine discusses the future of buildings research in the Division.

R&D activities relating to buildings have been a central focus of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division since its origin in 1973. What role will buildings play during your tenure as Division Director?

I want to build on the Division's 20-year history of leadership in the buildings arena. We've played a central role in the development of advanced energy-efficient windows, electronic ballasts for compact fluorescent lamps, and DOE-2, the de facto standard building energy simulation program. We have also led the development of cost-effective policies to promote energy efficiency in buildings, as well as the creation of market-based programs to achieve the same ends.

In the next ten years, there are many opportunities for us to continue our pre-eminent role. For example, I view the field of advanced computing applications applied to energy in buildings to be an especially exciting and fruitful area. Advanced computing could, through the development of visualization tools for building design or sophisticated computer control systems, dramatically change the way we work in and operate buildings, with significant impacts on the use of energy. An ability to accurately model the flow of air and pollutants in buildings will make possible a significant reduction in health risks from indoor air pollution.

"...I think we have to be leaders in our field to attempt to influence, in a positive way, the directions of research in the country..."

Our electrochromic window research program is a significant area of technology research. Combined with electronic controls to respond to the fluctuations in daylight from the exterior, these windows will result in significant energy savings once they reach the market. There are also good opportunities for us in areas we haven't been involved with yet, such as lighting based on semiconductor technology and developing innovative techniques for producing energy-efficient manufactured housing.

What about the future of the Energy Analysis and Indoor Environment Programs?

The Energy Analysis Program, which I used to lead, will continue to be a vital area. I anticipate that the program's work will continue to exert considerable influence on key decisions in energy and the environment taken by governments and international organizations, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I expect that we will be working more with the World Bank and regional banks in creating new energy-efficiency programs in developing countries. I also hope that the program will be an important presence in new domestic energy-efficiency initiatives, including the development of market-based programs such as Motor Challenge and federal procurement programs. As the United States begins to look again at new ways of promoting energy efficiency, I believe we can play a valuable and creative role in assessing new policy approaches. I am personally very interested in seeing revenue-neutral feebates (fees and rebates) used to promote energy efficiency. I am eager to see the Energy Analysis Program apply many of the tools that we have used to analyze energy in buildings in assessing the energy efficiency of industry, in both domestic and international markets.

Regarding indoor air quality, a large area of opportunity exists in advancing our ability to understand and predict air pollutant flows and deposition in buildings. Because of the work we have already done in modeling and gathering field data, we are in a strong position to develop the leading next-generation computer model. As I suggested earlier, this work could play an important role in helping to diagnose and remediate indoor air-quality problems. The improved productivity from a better indoor environment could save billions of dollars.

How do you plan to address the challenge of adequate funding for buildings-related research in the Division?

The Department of Energy's energy technology research budget has declined from $10 billion to less than $2 billion in the last 15 years. Our biggest challenge will be to try to turn this around. I think we have to be leaders in our field to attempt to influence in a positive way the directions of research in the country. DOE's budget for buildings is our bread and butter. These areas of research are so vital to the country that in the long run, I think we will see them grow.

I see significant opportunities for new funding sources for our buildings work. The state of California, in its new public-interest R&D activities, is one major new source. I am hopeful that we can build a significant program for California. I believe that there is interest in many of our activities in the private sector and I expect we will pursue some ventures internationally. For example, there is considerable interest in research on advanced energy-saving technologies for buildings by several large private companies in Europe and Japan, and we may be able to gain support for our longer-term research efforts from them.

How do you view the future of energy efficiency?

I am extremely excited about the prospects for energy efficiency in the coming decades. There was a great interest in energy efficiency-resulting in our contributing to the national effort by developing new technologies and designing and analyzing policies-from the mid-1970s through the late 1980s. I believe that the efforts to deal with the long-term risk of climate change will likely spur another period of innovation in energy efficiency. If this happens as I expect, I believe that the next fifteen years could surpass the achievements of the earlier period. I can see much more sophisticated and effective technologies, especially based on advanced electronics, playing a major role. And I can foresee new policy and market approaches that will bring the technologies to market more effectively.

Info icon

Mark Levine
Environmental Energy Technologies Division
(510) 486-5238; (510) 486-5454 fax


EETD Newsletter Home Page
CBS Newsletter Home Page
Table of Contents for this Issue