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Berkeley Lab and Webcor Partner to Study Building Energy Performance in First FLEXLAB Experiment

FLEXLAB™, the Facility for Low Energy eXperiments in Buildings, run by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD), has partnered with construction firm Webcor to test building energy performance. The testing will allow Webcor's engineers to predict and improve the energy performance for a new building being constructed for biotech company, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group. A building mockup will be studied at different building orientations specific to the actual construction site.

The research will take place in FLEXLAB's rotating testbed, a unit that rotates 270 degrees to allow researchers to study how building energy use and environmental parameters change in a variety of orientations relative to the sun. FLEXLAB's newly completed outdoor facility consists of four testbeds, consisting of two cells each, that can be outfitted in almost any combination of building envelope materials, windows and shade structures, lights, heating and cooling equipment, and controls to test new technology in real conditions. Two other testbeds, one for lighting and controls testing, and one for collaborative building design, have opened in an existing building at Berkeley Lab.

Berkeley Lab and Webcor will build a section of the building in the rotating testbed, collect data, and use these measurements to develop an accurate energy simulation model of the building. This practice allows the design team to better understand and predict the actual performance of the building, both for energy and comfort. The lab is the only facility in the U.S. that provides side-by-side, outdoor testing of fully integrated building systems (envelope, lighting, HVAC) in a fully reconfigurable space.

The U.S. Department of Energy's David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, was on hand in Berkeley to tour the facility; meet with Webcor executives, Lab Director Paul Alivisatos, and Berkeley Lab researchers; and view the start of the installation.

DOE Assistant Secretary Danielson addresses assembled Berkeley Lab staff

DOE Assistant Secretary Danielson addresses Berkeley Lab staff at FLEXLAB

DOE Assistant Secretary Danielson addresses Berkeley Lab staff at FLEXLAB

"The Energy Department's FLEXLAB is an exciting contribution that will help industry test comfortable, low-energy-use buildings technologies," says Danielson. "By advancing technologies that reduce our energy use in built environments, this project also brings us closer to meeting the ambitious goals of the President's Climate Action Plan and keeps America on the path to a clean energy future."

"We have to agree with other experts that this building, this facility, could be the most important building in the country. The DOE, Berkeley Lab, and its team have handed us a uniquely powerful tool, and now it is the architecture and engineering community's opportunity to put it to use," says Phil Williams, Webcor's Vice President for Building Systems and Sustainability.

Jes Pederson, Ashok Gadgil and David Danielson at FLEXLAB

Webcor CEO Jes Pedersen, EETD Division Director Ashok Gadgil, and DOE Assistant Secretary Danielson at FLEXLAB event

Webcor will ensure that the building operates according to specification when construction is finished. Operations and maintenance staff and occupants will provide input on the design from the outset, understanding how the integrated systems will work in operation. They will provide input on operations as well as functionality and comfort. This allows the team to identify potential performance and cost issues early on and address them, lowering the risk of delivered performance and the potential for costly change orders during the construction process.

"FLEXLAB will bring industry, DOE national lab scientists, manufacturers, and investors together, all working hand in hand on cutting-edge energy efficiency technologies and solutions," says Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos. "These partners can use the results from their FLEXLAB demonstrations to help encourage design, construction, and operation of high-performance buildings."

Mocking up and testing advanced designs will allow the buildings industry to build a case for new advanced technology, and scale up the opportunities for construction and operations cost reduction. Ultimately, this benefits consumers by leading to better-designed and operated, more-comfortable buildings with lower energy costs.

—Allan Chen

For more information:

  • Cynthia Regnier
  • (510) 486-7011
  • Mary Ann Piette
  • (510) 486-6286

Additional information:

FLEXLAB website

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