August Special Focus: FLEXLAB
A unique new facility for the buildings industry is taking shape at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). The Facility for Low Energy eXperiments in Buildings (FLEXLAB) is designed to be a national focal point for developing, simulating and testing energy-efficient technologies and strategies for buildings. FLEXLAB users will conduct research and develop technologies at FLEXLAB on single components as well as whole-building integrated design and operation aimed at substantially lowering the energy use, and improving the comfort and efficiency of both new and existing buildings. FLEXLAB is a facility of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD).
Construction of FLEXLAB began during the fall of 2012, and “it is coming along very well,” says FLEXLAB manager Cindy Regnier. “The project is on time and within budget. All of the testbed structural steel and most of the exterior walls and cladding are up. As of last weekend, we had energized and rotated the rotating testbed.” The construction teams are working on the roof as of this writing, and over the next couple of months, they will be installing mechanical systems. There have been 20,000 hours of construction with no safety incidents to date.
The FLEXLAB team is now planning the commissioning phase of the project so that they will be ready to go when the exterior structures are complete. Building commissioning is the process of checking the systems of a newly constructed building to ensure that they are operating according to design specification—commissioning has been shown by Berkeley Lab’s research to improve the energy efficiency and operational success of buildings. Following commissioning, there will be a period of calibrating the testbed models to operating conditions and defining testbed accuracy.
The interior Lighting and Plug Loads Testbed, built within an existing building at Berkeley Lab, has been complete since fall of 2012, and the first set of experiments, for a project being run by Philips North America, are in the final stages of analysis. The FLEXLAB team has completed the deployment of this testbed’s data acquisition system, which included custom scripting tools, channel configuration and data storage. The same system will be used in the exterior testbed.
“We should see the completion of the Virtual Design and Visualization Testbed by the end of the summer,” says Regnier. This lab will facilitate project design and development in a collaborative setting. It will be equipped with smartboards, which allow the facility’s users to work interactively by displaying and modifying content from their laptops directly to screens visible throughout the room. This testbed will also be used to visualize the experiments ongoing in the testbeds.
Once the exterior testbed is complete and commissioned, says Regnier, “we are very much looking forward to having a ribbon-cutting ceremony early in 2014, and to working with R&D partners in the buildings industry, government agencies and the academic community.”
For more information about working with FLEXLAB, contact email@example.com.