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News Release: DOE Research Facility Receives Lab of the Year Award

April 14, 2008

One of the nation’s most energy efficient and environmentally friendly buildings recently was recognized by editors of R&D Magazine as one of the best laboratory facilities built in the U.S. in 2007.  In the 42nd Laboratory of the Year competition, the Science & Technology Facility at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was one of only two laboratories recognized as trendsetters in laboratory design.

The NREL Science & Technology Facility in Golden, Colo., received the award for its unique sustainable design that reduces energy consumption by as much as 41 percent compared to similar facilities. 

“The Science & Technology Facility represents the Department of Energy’s continued commitment to unprecedented levels of investment at NREL and advancing the proliferation of clean, affordable building technologies that will transform the built environment, reduce our carbon foot print and address the serious challenges of climate change and energy security,“ said DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner.

 The 71,000-square-foot, $22.7-million laboratory, where scientists conduct solar research, was the first federal laboratory building to achieve the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building rating from the U.S. Green Buildings Council.   

“From the outset, we envisioned the Science & Technology Facility as an exemplary laboratory for the 21st century,” NREL Director Dan E. Arvizu said. “NREL is all about conserving our natural energy resources, so we built a state of the art research building that aggressively saves energy with low environmental impact.”

The goal of making the building energy efficient was significant since laboratories use about 4 to 6 times more energy than a typical office building.  Architectural features such as daylighting, evaporative cooling and efficient motors, fans, windows and lighting reduce the building’s energy requirements.

Particularly challenging was achieving energy efficiency while also constructing a safe, state-of-the-art research facility with multiple laboratories that are easily reconfigured to meet changing research requirements.

“The S&TF is an example of how an appropriate architectural expression is respectful of its natural surroundings and emphasizes a collaborative and productive indoor environment, without forfeiting superior functionality or architectural significance,” said Mike Medici, AIA, President of SmithGroup’s southwest region.  The SmithGroup of Phoenix, Ariz., was the design architect. 

R&D Magazine editors recognized the building’s environmental design and low cost as key factors in its selection for this special mention award. 

The multi-story building fits into the gently sloping side of a mesa, where care was taken to minimize disturbing the natural terrain and to conserve and manage water resources. NREL staff worked with the architect and construction contractor to make certain that 11 percent of the building materials were from recycled materials and 27 percent of the construction materials were manufactured within 500 miles of the building site. This minimized impact on land and air quality by reducing the amount of waste to landfills and vehicle emissions from transporting materials. 

Its cost, at $318 per square foot, was considerably less than the 2006 average of $450-475 per square foot cost of similar laboratory facilities. 

About 70 researchers and support staff work in the Science & Technology Facility.  It houses some of NREL’s solar and hydrogen energy research and was designed to help accelerate the development and commercialization of promising new energy technologies.  It was completed in June 2006.

M.A. Mortenson Company of Denver, Colo., was the general contractor. 

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle.