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High-Tech Buildings

For several years EETD staff have researched how to improve energy efficiency in the buildings of high-technology industries—mainly laboratories and cleanrooms, but other energy-intensive facilities as well. Energy usage in high-tech buildings accounts for a larger portion of the operating costs than in other buildings. Energy use is 4 to 100 times more in these buildings. In one 1993 calculation, high-technology buildings in California required approximately 8,800 GWh of electricity to operate. By 1997 the overall electrical energy use of such facilities had grown by 10%. This is a significant increase because it indicates growth even though the trend has been for companies to build these types of facilities outside of California in part because of energy costs. Because these industries change processes and products often, frequent opportunities arise to capture energy savings. Potential reductions of up to 50% have been demonstrated by case studies.

Industries utilizing laboratories and cleanrooms include semiconductor manufacturers and suppliers; pharmaceutical, biotech, and disk drive manufacturing; and a host of others. Some firms have already begun preliminary steps to reduce energy consumption. But firms with fewer resources could benefit from technology transfer and innovative implementation.

Such reasoning led to the development of the Design Guide for Laboratory-Type Facilities. This web-based, downloadable tool provides valuable information for building designers, owners, and operators. But to foster even larger energy savings, a "Design Intent" tool under development will provide a mechanism to track energy-related information throughout the life cycle of the building.

To approach the challenge of capturing increased energy savings, Applications Team researchers propose to apply research where benefits can be captured from prior research investments. Crucial to this is a long-range roadmap that will give industry clear paths for development, setting performance targets, and overcoming barriers.

Areas for Savings

A number of technologies can be developed to overcome barriers to more energy-efficient cleanrooms. EETD's focus is the facility itself. Improvements in the process systems and equipment in the facility are targeted as later priorities. The vision for savings includes:

  • a 50% reduction in building energy use for comparable production within 10 years,
  • emissions reductions,
  • measurement systems for continuous monitoring and improvement,
  • improved facility productivity,
  • improved worker and public safety,
  • new technologies to reduce cleanroom area and optimize cleanliness,
  • improved use of "green" technologies.

Prior Berkeley Lab work with commercial buildings demonstrated that performance-assurance practices need to take into account the largest energy-using components. In most buildings these are the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. HVAC systems within a research facility present complex challenges because of the large volumes of exhausted and circulated air as well as the need for humidity and filtering. Other areas that could offer additional energy savings include heat-recovery process systems and lighting. EETD staff has conducted research in collaboration with the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, EPRI, and Sematech, and a number of industrial companies interested in energy efficiency.

low-flow fume hood

A low-flow fume hood could be part of an energy-saving strategy for high-tech industries.

Low-Flow Fume Hood

One Berkeley Lab-developed technology that arose from efforts to save energy in high-tech buildings is a low-flow laboratory fume hood. The design provides containment by introducing displacement air flow at the fume hood opening, creating an air dam between the operator and hood contents. The air-dam approach differs from an air curtain in that the air flow is low velocity, supplied from top and bottom, and nonturbulent. The hood helps protect the operator and delivers dramatic cost reductions in construction and operation. Computational fluid dynamic modeling was used to further optimize the performance of the technology. A commercial version of the fume hood is now being developed with an industrial partner.


— Bill Tschudi

For more information, contact:

  • Bill Tschudi
  • (510) 495-2417; fax (510) 486-4089

Design Guide for Laboratory-Type Facilities

This research is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Institute for Energy Efficiency, and the California Energy Commission.

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