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The New York Times and EETD Advance Energy-Efficient Building Design

Artist rendering of the New York Times' new headquarters in Manhattan.

Figure 1. Artist rendering of the New York Times' new headquarters in Manhattan.

The New York Times is building a new headquarters, the company's first new office building since its current one was completed in 1913. The new transparent glass tower, 51 stories high, will overlook the Times Square Redevelopment area on 8th Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets in the heart of Manhattan (see Figure 1).

In preparation for construction of the new building, a group of visitors from the New York Times Company and its design and engineering contractors visited the Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) in early 2003 to talk about how to make buildings energy efficient, comfortable, and productive places to work. They spent a day learning about Berkeley Lab's research in commercial-building energy efficiency, glazing, lighting, daylighting, and thermal comfort from EETD's Stephen Selkowitz, Francis Rubinstein, Eleanor Lee, Mary Ann Piette, and others.

As a result of that visit, the New York Times Company and EETD have begun a cooperative research project to test new technologies that will increase the energy efficiency of the new headquarters. Because the Times found it difficult to specify a cost-effective, fully integrated window and lighting control system for the building, which will have an extensive glass façade, the research project will focus on integrated technologies to reduce electric lighting energy use through daylighting while controlling glare and cooling loads. Berkeley Lab's Building Technologies staff has been researching these topics for years. The new Times building is an opportunity to extend and apply the Lab's research, making efficient and cost-effective systems available not only to the Times but to other building owners and design teams.

"We think that demonstrating these technologies in a landmark building will gain them far more attention among manufacturers and specifiers than through more conventional lab-based research," says Building Technologies Department Head Stephen Selkowitz.

Researchers will test alternative hardware and control solutions in a newly constructed 4,500-square-foot mockup of a portion of the building. The research program will quantify performance alternatives and provide the Times with critical information so that it can publish a procurement specification for the technology solutions for the entire building. The project is being funded by the New York Times Company and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), with cost sharing from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the California Energy Commission (CEC).

Pushing the Daylighting Envelope

"We've known since the 1970s that daylighting can reduce lighting energy use," says Selkowitz. "But the mere use of large glass areas is not in itself a guarantee that energy savings or comfort will be achieved because there are so many tradeoffs involved. It's been difficult to make as much progress in the use of daylighting as we have in other areas of lighting and glazing technology for a variety of reasons. Daylighting requires a high level of system integration; architects and engineers have to design the building from the start to incorporate daylight into office spaces, there has to be a flexible and responsive control strategy to lower or turn off electric lights when daylight is available, and visual and thermal comfort must be maintained at all times.

"The cost of components, like dimmable electronic ballasts (which control fluorescent lights), for successful daylighting can be high, and the systems, with their sensors and controls, require careful calibration after they are installed, something that is not done very often in buildings today," Selkowitz notes. The Times project "will include a calibration and commission task, which will help lower component costs and improve the operation of the installed systems."

A shading system candidate for the new New York Times building undergoes testing in College Point.

Figure 2. A shading system candidate for the new New York Times building undergoes testing in College Point.

Berkeley Lab research suggests that proper daylighting can reduce lighting energy use in building perimeter zones by as much as 60 to 70 percent of annual perimeter-zone electric lighting energy use. Overall building energy use can also be reduced by 10 to 30 percent compared to energy use in a similar non-daylit building, depending on factors such as the fraction of total building area that can be effectively daylit. The additional savings come from reducing building air conditioning and heating loads as a result of selecting efficient glazings and automatic shading.

This project "will contribute to Berkeley Lab's longer-term energy-efficiency research goals in several ways," says Selkowitz. "Simulation and field testing will provide a measured database of performance, quantifying the benefits of an optimized solution for this building's design. The participation of numerous manufacturers in the field test program will involve them with design integration and calibration strategies. And finally, the very large procurement of an integrated daylighting system based on an open, performance-based specification should help move the market towards greater availability and lower costs for these energy-saving building systems."

The New Building as a Contribution to Civic Life

When the New York Times Company decided to erect the new building, creating a comfortable working environment for its employees was one of its highest priorities, as was energy efficiency. The building was designed to be highly "transparent," both to bring in daylight and to underscore the mission of the newspaper: providing information-transparency-about the civic life of the nation and the city. There will be an auditorium on the ground floor for civic and cultural events. The newsroom will occupy floors two through seven.

An unusual feature of the building, more commonly seen in Europe than in the U.S., will be its fully glazed curtain wall. Thin horizontal ceramic tubes placed on a steel framework one and a half feet in front of the glass will screen the building's full height wall of double-glazed, spectrally selective, low-emissivity glass, thus reducing the building's cooling loads. The ceramic tubes provide an aesthetic bonus, taking on the changing color of the sky during the course of the day as light diffuses through them from different angles. Above the top floor of the building, the screen of tubes becomes less dense, so its lace-like appearance will permit a view of roof-garden foliage.

The building will unite most of the 2,500 Manhattan-based employees of the Times Company, which currently has offices at seven locations in New York City. "This building is designed from the ground up to reinforce the values of The New York Times Company," said Michael Golden, vice chairman of the Times Company, when the plan was announced late in 2002. "The open plan and ease of communication, both vertically and horizontally, will enhance collaboration. Our new physical environment will improve the way we work, which is the highest calling of architecture." Construction will start later in 2004, and the expected completion date is mid-2006.

The building was designed by architect Renzo Piano, a winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1998, in collaboration with Fox + Fowle Architects. Piano is well-known for his design of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Osaka's Kansai International Airport, and Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, among many others. In 2000, Fox + Fowle received an American Institute of Architects National Honor Award for Design for the Condé Nast Building at 4 Times Square. That building emphasizes state-of-the-art energy conservation and other environmentally responsible features.

A Testbed for Advanced Daylighting

The New York Times Company's engineering staff had been trying to find a set of integrated technologies that would effectively dim the electric lighting and automatically deploy shading when appropriate in the new building, to take advantage of the daylight benefits but provide comfort. They were unable to find a system on the market that they believed would meet their requirements.

David Thurm, Vice President, Real Estate, for the New York Times Company noted, "We were excited to find that [Berkeley Lab's] prior work was relevant to our project. As an owner/operator, our primary interest is ensuring that the working environment in our building meets the comfort needs of our employees.

"The New York Times, as a motivated and concerned owner, has provided us with a great opportunity to advance the use of daylighting as an energy efficiency strategy," says Selkowitz. "In partnership with our [Berkeley Lab] team, they designed and have just completed a 4,500 square-foot south and west quadrant of one floor of the building on the grounds of their printing plant in College Point, New York. This full-size mockup will allow us to demonstrate and test the key hardware, calibration, and operational controls issues. It will allow the team to specify a technological solution that meets comfort and energy-saving goals."

"The solutions we are developing in the mockup will verify that the control systems and operating strategies will function effectively and provide the productive work environment needed by our employees under a wide range of climate conditions," says Thurm. (See Figure 2.)

Equipment measuring light levels at the New York Times test facility.

Figure 3. Measuring light levels at the New York Times test facility.

Although it was originally intended to be a conventional furniture mockup in a dark warehouse, the test structure will now become a working daylighting laboratory with its glass curtain wall and exterior shading, complete with lighting controls, interior automated shading, as well as furniture and interior finishes, to solve a design challenge that has eluded building owners throughout the country.

After the Times offered to cover the cost of constructing the outdoor mockup, the Berkeley Lab/Times team successfully competed in a solicitation from NYSERDA for the additional funding required to carry out the extensive instrumentation, monitoring, and analysis. The Department of Energy and California Energy Commission also shared the cost, as did the hardware vendors, making this a national partnership.

Berkeley Lab will direct the 12-month state-of-the-art performance evaluation in the mockup and, working with the Times, will use project results to develop performance specifications to stimulate the building industry to provide lower-cost technologies and systems that meet the building's needs. Using this approach, the industry's experience with the Times building will help proliferate daylighting to other buildings.

The New York Times, its architecture and engineering firms, and the Berkeley Lab team led by Eleanor Lee and consisting of Selkowitz, Francis Rubinstein, Dennis Dibartolomeo, Robert Clear, Greg Ward, Christian Kohler, David Watson, Judy Lai, Howdy Goudey, Robin Mitchell, and Danny Fuller have been working together to develop the R&D project plan and launch the project. They have held a series of design charrettes on the East and West coasts and meetings with the buildings supply industry. The mockup facility is now complete, final calibration of instrumentation is under way, and initial testing began on schedule on December 21, 2003. While most of Berkeley Lab was celebrating the holidays at home, Lee and her team were anxiously monitoring the data flow from the mockup. (See Figure 3.)

Stay tuned. Later in the year, EETD News will report on results from these tests.

— Allan Chen

For more information, contact:

  • Stephen Selkowitz
  • (510) 486-5064; fax (510) 486-4096

This research is funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission, with a significant costshare from the New York Times Company.

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