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A New National User Facility for Low Energy Integrated Building Systems

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will soon begin to construct a National User Facility for Low Energy Integrated Building Systems. It will consist of a series of unique research testbeds designed to address key technical challenges for integrated low-energy building technologies, systems, and controls. The facility will serve a national audience—and need—in an aggressive pursuit of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) goals for maximizing cost-effective energy-efficiency strategies for existing and new buildings, and in the widespread deployment of these strategies.

Advanced Windows Test Facility

Berkeley Lab's Advanced Windows Test Facility is an example of an existing test bed that allows researchers to install prototypes or existing products and measure their performance over time, and under changing conditions.

The User Facility will be managed by Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD). The test beds will be made available to collaborating organizations including manufacturers, designers, technology startups, academia, and other national labs. The facility and its users represent the broad range of approaches and stakeholders essential to achieving low-energy new construction and retrofit building goals.

Fulfilling a Critical Buildings Research Need

Buildings account for more than 40 percent of U.S. energy use and carbon emissions. If building energy efficiency remains as it is today, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that by 2030 we will experience a 16 percent growth in building energy consumption. Strategies that dramatically reduce the energy consumption of new buildings and address the low-energy retrofit of existing buildings will be essential in reducing energy use and its climate-related impacts. The new laboratory facilities will help researchers develop, test, and validate promising technologies, systems, and design approaches. Projects will focus on cost-effective energy savings strategies that can be rapidly deployed into the nation's building stock.

Broad Stakeholder Participation

Berkeley Lab is currently working with numerous stakeholder organizations, including industry partners, utilities, universities, nonprofits, and public agencies to further refine the requirements for the facility. Berkeley Lab invites inquiries from additional potential partners in both the public and private sectors.

Diverse Capabilities to Address Multiple Sectors

The User Facility will be designed to conduct side-by-side field tests of interchangeable prototype building systems such as windows; lights; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); energy control systems; plug loads; and skylights. The facility will allow researchers to focus on just one building system component or on fully integrated systems. For example, a research project could address energy-efficient window system prototypes alone or the energy performance of an integrated lighting, daylighting, and HVAC system with optimized controls.

The facility will include a virtual design testbed, featuring EnergyPlus and other design tools that users can access to perform integrated simulation-based design and life-cycle focused analysis. These simulation tools will also allow testbed results to be extrapolated to other building conditions and climates. A controls system testbed will enable users to evaluate the performance of wireless systems; test the interoperability of controls for HVAC, lighting, shading, plug load, and electrical controls systems hardware and communications protocols; and assess monitoring tools. The controls testbeds will also include on-site hardware and analysis tools and software to allow for the analysis of the experiments conducted in the test bed facilities, and to validate performance of software tools.

Benefits

The Low Energy Integrated Building Systems User Facility will provide the following key benefits:

  • It advances the Department of Energy's goals for very low-energy buildings for both new construction and retrofit building research.
  • The facility can be used to validate and quantitatively demonstrate the value of whole-building systems integration, in addition to component efficiency improvements, in reducing energy consumption and improving indoor environments.
  • The use of multiple discrete testbeds maximizes user access to the facility, increasing industry engagement and throughput.
  • The facility will allow testing under controlled laboratory conditions, as well as in a lived-in office environment, thus allowing the impacts of behavioral strategies to be assessed.

Actively Seeking Partners

Berkeley Lab has selected an outside design team to complete the detailed design of the testbed facilities. In parallel with this design process LBNL is seeking partners to work with us and better define use scenarios for the new facility. A proposal call and evaluation process will be announced in the near future, along with further details of the facility design and its capabilities. However, there are many ways to engage now with the facility and Berkeley Lab researchers. To explore how your organization could contribute to and benefit from becoming a facility partner, contact Doug Davenport.

—Doug Davenport

For more information, or to partner with us, contact:

  • Doug Davenport
  • (510) 486-7655

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