National Renewable Energy Laboratory Research Support Facility, GOLDEN, CO
New, more energy-efficient office space; a comfortable, productive working environment; a LEED-certified platinum facility; lower energy costs; on-time completion on a tight schedule; innovative solutions that use the natural environment for heating and cooling; a replicable integrated design approach that helped control costs.
To construct an energy-efficient office facility and reduce leasing costs.
To complete this demanding project, Trautman & Shreve developed a number of innovative solutions that resulted in a LEED-certified platinum facility that is only the second in the world to use net zero energy. To achieve this, the company effectively integrated a variety of energy reduction strategies, an approach that also kept costs in line with conventional construction processes.
One of the project’s major challenges involved the installation of a radiant heating and cooling system. The water-based system consists of over 42 miles of radiant tubing looped through concrete slabs in the floor. While it would normally take at least seven days per floor to install this much piping, the tight schedule allowed only five.
To keep the project on track for timely completion, Trautman & Shreve prefabricated the tubing and then organized it into nearly 200 rolls labeled according to the floor and area where each was to be installed. When a location was ready, the company lifted the appropriate rolls to the proper area and rolled them out in place. The strategy worked so well that the company actually took 28 days off the already accelerated schedule.
Furthermore, the radiant floor system was originally designed with 56 heating and cooling zones, but the LEED platinum requirements called for proving the efficiency of each loop in each zone, a difficult task with the initial design. Therefore, the company suggested some simple changes. By increasing the number of manifolds from 56 to 142, the company reduced each device’s size, simplifying installation in a very congested area and permitting more effective temperature control in each loop of each zone. The company also added 179 flow meters to balance every loop in all of the zones. These two innovations improved temperature control and increased overall system efficiency.
Other heating and cooling strategies effectively take advantage of the natural environment. Outside air is passively heated by external solar collectors and transported through an under-floor distribution system. A crawl space under each wing of the building contains insulated panels in a maze-like pattern that traps air. The air-handling system then uses this air for “free” heating and cooling. One section of the labyrinth catches hot air expelled from the data center. This reduces the need to cool the center and provides hot air that can be recovered to heat the rest of the building. A naturally cool underground area of the labyrinth provides additional air for use when cooling is required.
The temperature control system also uses the environment. For instance, the system monitors each employee’s personal area and energy use. If an area becomes too warm, the system sends an email asking the employee to open a window, or the window may open and close by itself when the control system detects a need. In addition, the system automatically closes the blinds to cool the building in the summer and opens them to warm it in the winter. On cool summer nights, windows are opened to cool the building and replenish the systems. For added energy efficiency, the control system also calculates how long it will take janitorial crews to clean each space, and then automatically turns each area on and off as the crews pass through.
Finally, Trautman & Shreve added outstanding safety performance to its list of accomplishments on this project. Supported by its ZAP (Zero Accident Program), the company fittingly completed this zero energy building with zero accidents.
The NREL conducts renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development in 12 main programmatic areas, each led by experts in technology management with capabilities that span a wide range of renewable energy technologies.