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Research Support Facility

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An artist's rendering of an H-shaped building. The rendering includes a key at the bottom with letters A-K that correspond with letters on the building. Each letter, when selected, provides additional information about the building feature.

Use the interactive rendering to learn more about the RSF's renewable energy and energy efficiency features and design.

The Research Support Facility (RSF) is the laboratory's newest sustainable green building. This 360,000 ft2 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum office building is a showcase for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

The energy goal for the building is 35kBtu/ft2/year. A rooftop photovoltaic system was implemented through a Power Purchase Agreement; daylighting; natural ventilation; and a next-generation, energy efficient data center are just a few of the energy features of the building.

For details on the process for achieving a net-zero energy building, see the booklet "The Design-Build Process for the Research Support Facility" and "The Road to Net Zero" presented by NREL's former Deputy Laboratory Director and Chief Operating Officer at the 2011 Sustainable Operations Summit.


The RSF has won numerous awards for its innovative design, construction, and sustainable features.

Building Description

The RSF building was designed for about 1300 staff from NREL. This new flagship building:

  • Incorporates the concepts of safe design into the planning, design, construction, and operation of the facility
  • Meets the Platinum certification as defined by the US Green Buildings Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System
  • Meets the requirements of the workforce of today and tomorrow
  • Provides the lowest attainable energy use per square foot
  • Provides an architectural image that is consistent with the site and NREL's identity.

The fact sheet, Research Support Facility—A Model of Super Efficiency, provides information about the design-build approach, high-performance design features, materials, the workplace of the future, and a cost comparison summary.

Building Energy Performance

During the first year of occupancy, the RSF’s measured whole building energy use is meeting the predicted annual energy use targets. NREL continues to monitor performance and educate RSF occupants about their role in helping ensure that annual energy use goals will be met. View the Energy Performance Update by NREL’s Commercial Buildings Research Group to see predicted versus actual data for lighting, plug loads, heating and cooling use, rooftop PV production, and more.


Read how the building was designed and constructed to be highly energy-efficient and sustainable:

Controlling Capital Costs in High-Performance Office Buildings

This webinar presented a set of 15 best practices for owners, designers, and construction teams to reach high performance goals while maintaining a competitive budget. To achieve these goals, all key members of the integrated team must understand their opportunities to control capital costs. These best practices were derived from the design/build team experiences in constructing the RSF.

Getting to Net Zero Energy Through a Performance-Based Design/Build Process

Jeff Baker from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Phil Macey from Haselden Construction, and Bill Glover (formerly with NREL) discuss how the RSF and net-zero energy buildings are achievable and marketable now in this DOE Building Technologies Program Webinar.

NREL Research

Through innovative research, the Advanced Commercial Buildings Research team at NREL develops tools, strategies, and techniques to reduce energy use in commercial buildings and improve overall quality. The team's work informed the energy goal set for the RSF. The NREL publications listed below provide background information about designing highly energy efficient buildings like the RSF:

Design-Build Contract

A design-build contract of approximately $64 million was awarded for the first phase of the RSF, and the design-build team includes Haselden Construction and RNL. The benefits of the design-build process are:

  • One contractor performs architecture/engineering and construction to improve project efficiency, cost, scope, and schedule performance
  • The competitive market provides the most technically-sound and cost-effective solution based on well-defined user performance standards
  • Project delivery and execution improves.

View the inactive Request for Proposals (RFP) Number RFJ-8-77550. This contract was awarded in July, 2008.

Research Support Facility

RSF Prototype

NREL's Information Services staff prototyped the new workstations and technologies planned for the RSF. This helped ensure that employees moving into the RSF would know all about the "workplace of the future."

Nearly 100 employees prototyped several new workstation configurations that utilized shorter cube heights and allowed for maximum daylighting and lower energy costs. Along with the furniture, employees tested many of the new information technologies now in the RSF. Learn how NREL tested the energy-saving office of the future.

RSF Data Center video thumbnail

Take a tour of the RSF Data Center. (YouTube)

Green Data Center

The RSF's green data center was designed to optimize efficiency by implementing building and data center best practices to obtain better than industry standard Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratings, and to support the RSF's energy goals. Through innovative air handling using "free cooling" courtesy of Denver's climate, the data center significantly reduces the need to use traditional air conditioning to counteract the extensive heat generated by equipment housed in the facility. The RSF heating system reuses the waste heat in the winter, with the heat from the data center being either ducted to the building's ventilation systems, or exhausted to the outside when not needed. The data center is also configured with hot aisle containment, ensuring that supply air is not mixed with the hot air vented from the equipment.

In addition to features in the design of the data center, NREL replaced 90% of its legacy server environment with HP Blade servers that utilize variable speed fans and energy-efficient power supplies. 70% of NREL's server environment is now virtualized, with a more than 20:1 ratio of legacy physical machines to virtual servers. This equates to a 96% reduction in computing equipment energy footprint through virtualization. Data center design, virtualization, implementation of efficient uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), and an energy efficient computing environment resulted in a 55% to 71% per user reduction in data center energy requirements and a world class power usage effectiveness rating of between 1.12 and 1.22 (depending on the season).

Learn more about the RSF Data Center by reading the case study highlighting the design, implementation strategies, and continuous performance monitoring: Reducing Data Center Loads for a Large-Scale, Net Zero Office Building

Research Support Facility Workshop

In July 2011, NREL and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hosted the RSF Workshop, with the goal of bringing together a broad set of stakeholders in the commercial building industry to learn about, discuss, critique and comment on the energy features and design-build process used for the RSF.

Workshop Presentations