Maximizing the Maxed: Improving Design of One LEED Platinum to Earn Another

Dec. 28, 2012
DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory certifies two facilities.

The Research Support Facility (RSF) on the campus of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently earned its second LEED Platinum award, improving on already impressive efficiency measures.

The initial RSF project became certified in June 2011, and the 138,000-square-foot expansion that added a third wing was designated LEED Platinum in November 2012. The RSF expansion is 17% more energy-efficient than the original project, based on as-built predictive models.

“It’s rare to take everything you’ve learned in one building and then immediately repeat and improve on it in another,” says Drew Detamore, NREL’s deputy director of site operations.

The RSF expansion cost $39 million and received funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Despite the upgrades, the expansion cost was $14 per square foot cheaper than the original facility.

Among the major differences are a more streamlined thermal labyrinth under the building, an indirect evaporative cooling system, and flexible lighting controls. It offers significantly more daylighting with operable windows and skylights.

The facility also features a more efficient solar array – going from 13% efficient to 19% efficient PV panels – that was purchased at a lower cost.

Other technologies include displacement ventilation in conference rooms, triple pane curtain walls with four level electrochromics, and wall panels at the foundation designed to minimize thermal bridges. Cooling for the IT and electrical rooms is provided with heat pumps, and the removed heat is used for domestic hot water.

“To see such impressive energy efficiency enhancements in such a short time speaks volumes to the rapid progression of efficient commercial building practices, for which NREL is proud to be a driving force,” Detamore says.

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