New Buildings Design
Most new buildings on a research campus will be in use for many years, so their designs represent unique opportunities for energy savings. When calculated over a building's lifetime, energy efficiency represents the lowest cost strategy for reducing energy use and the accompanying emissions of greenhouse gases.
The following links go to sections that describe how new building designs may fit into your climate action plans.
This one-time opportunity is especially tangible for new laboratory buildings, because they are so energy intensive. Labs21 data indicate that laboratories consume 3–8 times more energy than a typical office building. Most labs can reduce energy use by 30% or more with current technologies that have reasonable payback periods.
Many key decisions that affect energy use—including the building form and footprint, layout, adjacencies, and mechanical systems—are made during the programming phase of design.
New Buildings Design Options
There are two basic ways to establish energy performance goals for new buildings:
One of the most specific and verifiable energy standards is total energy consumption, which is usually expressed in British Thermal Units per square foot per year (Btu/ft2·yr). You can use the online Labs21 Energy Benchmarking tool to compare energy consumption at your facility with that of more than 170 campus facilities.
Ratings and Certifications
Another increasingly common approach is to certify a rating organization such as the U.S. Green Buildings Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). In this case, the design team will consist of professionals who are certified in this system for scoring up to 10 points under the LEED Energy and Atmosphere Credit. Labs21 publishes a voluntary Environmental Performance Criteria that coordinates with and extends LEED ratings to set appropriate and specific recommendations for laboratory buildings.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy publishes a Buildings Database that includes information about these buildings.
The most common standards are published by the American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA): ASHRAE–IESNA 90.1 latest version. ASHRAE bases these standards on consensus-based input from many stakeholders, so the goals can be readily achieved. Organizations that want to set more ambitious goals thus often set them at a percentage of this standard. For example, the federal government recommends energy performance goals at 30% below the latest version of ASHRAE–IENSA 90.1.
The design and build team can use many strategies to meet its energy performance goals; these can be reviewed in detail under Labs21 Case Studies. Similarly, there are a number of methods for verifying that a new building will meet its energy performance goals during construction, during occupancy, and at the end of its useful life.
The simplest approach is to require designers and builders to use computer programs called energy simulations to substantiate that energy performance goals are being met throughout the design and build process. Usually these simulations are required as deliverables for the design and build contracts.
A more thorough approach is to check the settings against factory specifications and measure the performance of all energy-consuming equipment before the building is occupied. This process, called commissioning, can then be undertaken again, later in the building's life or at regular intervals.
Considerations for New Buildings Design on Campus
Before undertaking an assessment of new building designs, a research campus should ask these questions:
- Do you know how much it costs to operate your laboratory buildings?
- Do you plan to own the building for more than 10 years?
- Do you have the budget and authority to design a new building?
Compare with Existing Buildings
Campus facility managers report (based on Labs21 case studies) that annual energy costs range from $2 per square foot per year (ft2·yr) to $16/ft2·yr. This means that if you are designing a new 100,000-ft2 building, it could cost as much as $1.6 million per year to operate. Given this baseline, life cycle cost calculations are eye opening. Over its 30-year lifetime, energy bills will total $48 million—more if the cost of energy increases.
Own New Building Longer Than 10 Years
The longer you plan to own the lab, the more important life cycle economics of energy efficiency become to your bottom line.
Budget Authority for New Design
If you are the project officer, you can prioritize and balance the competing priorities for a new laboratory: sustainability, scientific functionality, budget, aesthetics, and safety. Energy-efficient laboratory design often goes hand in hand with safety, because the air flow is contained in fume hoods and equipment is turned off when not in use.
Leading Example: NREL Science & Technology Facility
The DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Science and Technology Facility (S&TF) in Golden, Colorado, has a LEED Platinum rating.
The S&TF building is a Labs21 pilot project, and its energy performance and measured energy use are both well documented. The S&TF is a two-story, 71,347-ft2 laboratory building completed in 2006 at a total construction cost of $22.7 million ($318/ft2) and a total project cost of $29.8 million. Researchers in the building investigate the use of semiconductor materials for generating electricity from solar energy, manufacturing techniques for producing thin-film solar cells, and next-generation solar technologies.
Energy costs for this building are estimated through computer simulation to be 41% lower than those of a comparable facility designed to ASHRAE–IESNA Standard 90.1-199. This results in an estimated annual energy saving of 10,648 million Btu and annual cost saving of $96,000. The added cost for the energy efficiency features was $482,500 more than building to the standard. Altogether, this investment in energy efficiency has a simple payback of 5 years.
You can read a feature article describing the building, including its measured first year energy performance, in the 2008 edition of the ASHRAE on-line magazine High Performing Buildings. The first year of data shows slightly greater energy consumption than the computer simulations predicted.
The following documents and websites list specific strategies for energy efficiency in new buildings design.
- A Design Guide for Energy-Efficient Research Laboratories is published online by the DOE Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
- Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings Memorandum of Understanding lists guiding principles for integrated design and energy performance.
- Labs21 Tool Kit is used to help design, construct, and operate high-performance laboratory buildings.
- Trends in Lab Design is a feature article published in May 2008 by the National Institute of Building Sciences as part of its Whole Building Design Guide.
- A Handbook for Planning and Conducting Charrettes for High-Performance Projects September 2009) NREL publishes this handbook about whole-building design.