BERKELEY, Calif. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced what is being called the world’s most advanced energy efficiency test bed for buildings, the FLEXLAB at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). FLEXLAB is already signing up companies looking to reduce their energy use by testing and deploying the most energy efficient technologies as integrated systems under real-world conditions. The facility includes a rotating test bed to track and test sun exposure impacts, and other high-tech features.

In its first test bed experiment, leading biotech company Genentech is leveraging FLEXLAB to test systems for a new building at the company’s South San Francisco headquarters.

“At Genentech, we are constantly innovating and following the science, so we were excited to apply this approach to energy efficiency and building optimization,” said Carla Boragno, Genentech vice president for site services. “FLEXLAB represents a new type of experiment for us, and presents the opportunity to be first-in-class in another area of innovation. We are proud to be the leading client of FLEXLAB.”

Utility PG&E is next in line to use the facility to test next generation technologies — focusing on whole building systems — for emerging technologies incentive programs.

PG&E is working with an advisory committee to identify system-scale efficiency improvements that make the best sense for most businesses. It is testing alternatives in FLEXLAB, starting with innovations in building envelopes, lighting, and shading.

“Compared to the usual ‘widget’ approach of offering incentives for single pieces of equipment, utilities are finding the next generation of energy efficiency technology — which includes single or multiple integrated building systems — is an order of magnitude more complex. FLEXLAB will help them get a handle on this,” said Cindy Regnier, FLEXLAB executive manager. “And that opens the door to new and renovated buildings that are dramatically more energy efficient.”

That’s what Bay Area-based builder Webcor, Genentech’s contractor, hopes to find. In its experiment, Webcor is using the rotating test bed to plan a 250,000-square-foot building, which includes a built-out space that mimics Genentech’s interior office space and will test for user comfort and utility.

“We are running tests and gathering data that will allow us to maximize the Genentech building’s energy-efficiency potential,” said Webcor CEO Jes Pederson. “FLEXLAB could revolutionize the way we plan and build energy-efficient buildings.”

FLEXLAB test beds can test HVAC, lighting, windows, building envelope, control systems, and plug loads, in any combination. Users can test alternatives, perform cost-benefit analyses, and ensure a building will be as efficient as possible — before construction or retrofitting begins.

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Publication date: 8/4/2014

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