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Research Highlights

Increased Carbon Dioxide Concentration Impacts Human Performance

A research team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Environmental Energy Technologies Division and the State University of New York Upstate Medical University has found that increasing indoor carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations at the higher end of the range typically measured in buildings (1,000 parts per million [ppm] and 2,500 ppm) can reduce human decision-making performance.

Impact of CO2 on human decision making performance

Moderate and statistically significant decrements occurred in six of nine scales of decision-making performance when subjects were exposed to 1,000 ppm CO2, relative to a concentration of 600 ppm, which is the concentration in a well-ventilated building. At 2,500 ppm, large and statistically significant reductions occurred in seven scales of decision-making performance.

Previous research has attributed associations of higher indoor carbon dioxide concentrations with impaired work performance, increased health symptoms, and poorer perceived air quality to other indoor air pollutants whose concentrations closely correlate with indoor CO2 concentrations. Consequently many studies of indoor air quality use carbon dioxide concentration as a proxy for the concentrations of an array of other indoor air pollutants.

This study assessed the direct effects of CO2 (within the range of indoor concentrations) on decision-making. Results suggest that carbon dioxide itself can have impacts on human performance.

The authors write: "The findings of this study, if replicated, would have implications for the standards that specify minimum ventilation rates in buildings, and would also indicate the need to adhere more consistently to the existing standards."

For more information, contact Mark MendellMark Mendell, MJMendell@lbl.gov.

Satish U., M.J. Mendell, K. Shekhar, T. Hotchi, D. Sullivan, S. Streufert, W.J. Fisk, et al. "Is CO2 an Indoor Pollutant? Direct Effects of Low-to-Moderate CO2 Concentrations on Human Decision-Making Performance." Environ Health Perspect. doi:10.1289/ehp.1104789.

Funding for this work was provided by the Collaborative Activities for Research and Technology Innovation (CARTI), which is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


International Prize for Water Awarded to Team Led by Berkeley Lab's Ashok Gadgil

Ashok Gadgil

Ashok Gadgil

Ashok Gadgil

A team led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's (Berkeley Lab) Ashok Gadgil is the recipient of the 5th Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water. Gadgil, head of the Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division and a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, will receive the Creativity Prize on behalf of the team. The prize recognizes his team for developing an innovative technology for affordable arsenic-safe drinking water in Bangladesh and nearby regions.

The biannual prize is named after HRH Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia's Assistant Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General for Military Affairs. The prize comes with 1 million Saudi riyals (about $266,000) and a distinctive trophy.

The award citation noted that Gadgil received his recognition for "research [relating to] one of the greatest problems currently facing the water supply: the arsenic contamination of groundwater." The citation continues: "The Creativity Prize is being awarded to Dr. Ashok Gadgil's team at UC Berkley for developing an economical and effective way to treat arsenic contamination and restore the groundwater supply to potability for millions of poor people around the globe. Together, these achievements promise to save countless lives."

Says Gadgil, "We are pleased that this prize recognizes the depth of our scientific research. This ranges from analysis of materials using synchrotron-generated x-rays, to engineering design, and also the breadth of our work that spans social sciences, economics, consumer and organizational behavior, and financially viable business models."

Arsenic in drinking water occurs naturally in high concentrations in certain areas of the world, including Bangladesh, and is believed to be poisoning as much as 50 percent of that nation's population.

"My team members and I are thrilled that the international committee of distinguished water experts for this prize selected our work," says Gadgil, "which truly represents a team effort." Gadgil's team members for this award are: Susan Addy and Case van Genuchten from the University of California, Berkeley; Professor Joyashree Roy from Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India; and Robert Kostecki from Berkeley Lab.

The awards ceremony will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in January 2013.

The Prince Sultan prize announcement.

More on Gadgil's work at the Gadgil Lab website.

Nanogrids Can Support Smart Grid Success

The Smart Grid promises to deliver the right amount of power to the right equipment at the right time and at the right price. However, fulfillment of this promise is dependent on precise control of electricity, and is being offered just as renewable generation and variable pricing structures introduce more challenges to grid operations.

Berkeley Lab's Bruce Nordman and Alan Meier, and Ken Christensen of the University of South Florida, offer a way to overcome those challenges in their article, "Think Globally, Distribute Power Locally: The Promise of Nanogrids." The authors outline how nanogrids—relatively small, locally operated grids—can manage local power supplies at a lower cost and reduced energy use. A nanogrid has at least one load or sink of power, a gateway to the outside, and a controller to distribute power, using price signals to mediate supply and demand. It is the most effective way to integrate local renewable generation and storage, and it incorporates features such as peer-to-peer power exchange, bidirectional power flow, and managed distribution to loads. By separating power distribution from functional control, nanogrids allow different devices to be powered differently; some with AC and some with DC. In areas where buildings produce power, as well as use it, nanogrids can be structured so that a building using less energy can share its electricity with another building with a higher need.

For developing countries, nanogrids offer a hedge against cost-intensive central station facilities and their transmission and distribution networks by allowing distributed generation to provide more of the electricity and smaller central facilities to be built. Other benefits include secure communications, privacy, and local storage.

For more information on nanogrids, see Bruce Nordman's webpage.

Bruce Nordman, Alan Meier, and Ken Christensen, "Think Globally, Distribute Power Locally: The Promise of Nanogrids," Computer September 2012, 45:9 pp 89–91.

Berkeley Lab Connecting BEST Center Students with Latest Research

Kristen Parrish

Kristen Parrish

Mary Ann Piette

Mary Ann Piette

Kristen Parrish Kristen Parrish Mary Ann Piette Mary Ann Piette

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the Building Efficiency for a Sustainable Tomorrow (BEST) Center at Laney College in Oakland, California, with a four-year, $4 million grant. The BEST Center will develop curricula for two-year U.S. colleges to educate building control technicians and incorporate energy-efficient technologies and practices into their programs.

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will contribute to the BEST Center by providing the latest research in energy-efficient building technologies. Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) will provide technical information, webinars, and guest lectures to Laney College students.

"The focus will be on infusing energy efficiency wherever possible into the curricula for building technicians in two-year community college programs," says Kristen Parrish, former Post-Doctoral scholar at Berkeley Lab, now an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University' School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. "Berkeley Lab's participation in the project will allow Laney College students to connect with Berkeley Lab's research community and learn about cutting-edge research," adds Parrish.

The Center will leverage Laney's NSF-sponsored work to create certificate and degree programs to prepare technicians to maintain and optimize the performance of commercial buildings. BEST will provide its curricula to community colleges across the United States.

Laney College has offered courses in building technician education for more than 40 years. With the support of the National Science Foundation, Laney has expanded its Environmental Controls Technology program to include building automation systems, energy efficiency, and commercial building technician education. A goal of Laney's ECT program is to prepare technicians to be "change agents" in implementing cost-effective energy-efficiency measures in commercial and residential buildings.

Mary Ann Piette, EETD's Head of the Building Technology and Urban Systems Department, and James O'Donnell, EETD Postdoctoral Fellow, will work with Laney College staff on the BEST Center.

For more information on the BEST Center, see the BEST Center website.


Berkeley Lab's Ashok Gadgil Will Lead UC Berkeley's New Development Impact Laboratory

The University of California (UC), Berkeley, announced today that Ashok Gadgil, leader of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), will lead the university's new Development Impact Laboratory (DIL). Gadgil is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley.

Photo of women using Darfur Stove.

Low-carbon technologies for food preparation, water purification, shelter, and public health are among those to be addressed by the new Development Impact Laboratory.

The United States Agency for International Development is funding DIL with up to $20 million under its new Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN). The network's purpose is to apply science and technology to solve key problems in health, food security, chronic conflict, and other global needs. UC Berkeley's DIL will be one of a network of USAID-funded labs at seven universities to conduct this research. In total, the universities participating in HESN will receive up to $130 million over five years to fund the research.

"DIL is a truly exciting opportunity to bring world-class science and technology innovation to bear on some of the most difficult problems of international development in poor societies," says Gadgil. "We are thrilled to be selected by USAID to be part of this exclusive group, from close to 500 applicant teams. Our selection also indicates how well our proposal aligns with the vision of the Science and Technology team at USAID seeking to undertake development work in new ways."

Ashok Gadgil at work on water purification technology.

Ashok Gadgil at work on water purification technology.

Ashok Gadgil at work on water purification technology.

Berkeley Lab's LBNL Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies (LIGTT) will participate in the work of DIL, partnering with them in areas where LIGTT is performing research, including health, water and sanitation, and urban poverty.

Institutional members of the DIL include UC San Diego, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Makerere University in Uganda, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (India), University of Washington, University of Michigan, and Portland State University.

Several Berkeley faculty members will play key roles in the DIL project. Professor Shankar Sastry, dean of the college of engineering, will serve as its chief scientist. Professors Eric Brewer (Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences), Daniel Fletcher (Bioengineering), Edward Miguel (Economics), and Ananya Roy (City and Regional Planning) also have significant major roles in the DIL project.

Read the UC Berkeley press release.

Read more about the Higher Education Solutions Network.

Web Guide to Improving Existing Ventilation in California Homes and Apartments

RESAVE website

RESAVE website.

RESAVE website.

The RESAVE website is a guide that offers homebuilders and energy auditors working in California information on how to improve ventilation in existing residential buildings. The overall goal of this California Energy Commission Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program is to help reduce the amount of energy and peak power used in homes to condition air that enters from outdoors.

Inadequate ventilation often leads to increased levels of moisture and pollutants in a home. A good mechanical ventilation system can not only save energy, but also help protect occupant health by reducing exposures to those pollutants.

Infiltration, the uncontrolled exchange of air through leaks and penetrations, typically accounts for over one-third of the total space conditioning energy. New homes typically spend the same fraction of energy on mechanical ventilation. The RESAVE program aims to reduce infiltration- and ventilation-related peak load and energy costs by 25 to 50 percent.

For more information on the RESAVE program, see the RESAVE website.

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