BERKELEY, Calif. — The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has announced the opening of its $59 million Solar Energy Research Center. Officially renamed Chu Hall after former Energy Secretary and LBNL director Steven Chu, the building was designed by SmithGroupJJR.

The new 39,000-square-foot, three-story building is the new home for 100 researchers, most from the DOE-funded Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), the nation’s largest research program dedicated to the development of artificial solar-fuel generation technology. Previously, the JCAP researchers worked in a leased space in West Berkeley. In addition to JCAP researchers, the building also houses the administrative offices of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute, which explores energy science and nanomaterials.

Following Chu Hall’s mission to “create sustainable, carbon-neutral sources of energy,” the design and construction of the building voluntarily responded to DOE’s mandate of 30 percent energy savings based on ASHRAE Standard 90.1. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification is targeted.

Mechanical energy-efficient features and sustainable design elements include runaround heat recovery, which in the winter utilizes the building’s waste heat energy to heat the outside air brought into the building and in the summer cools it; high-efficiency condensing boilers; high-efficiency chillers with variable frequency drives (VFDs); evaporative pre-cooling hybrid system; and individual office variable air volume (VAV) terminals with switch for window interlock — essentially, a mechanical system that knows when a window is open on the office floor.

Lighting energy and water conservation measures are significant at Chu Hall. A narrow building footprint on levels 2 and 3 with abundant windows and skylights allows for daylight to enter and minimizes lighting energy consumption. LED lighting and energy efficient lighting, lighting controls-light sensors for occupancy and daylight sensors are used, along with daylight harvesting with lights that dim when sufficient daylight is available. Water consumption is reduced 30 percent with energy-saver plumbing fixtures, water efficient landscaping with an efficient drip irrigation system, and drought-resistant plant selection.

Other sustainability features of Chu Hall include a green roof at the north and south portions of level 1 to provide thermal insulating qualities and minimize heat gain, along with an east-west axis with the smallest façade facing south. Energy efficient, low-E glazing is used on the exterior. Onsite development was reduced by using adjacent parking, allowing minimized paved areas and more native plantings.

Renewable energy sources include solar hot water panels for domestic hot water heating. Photovoltaic panels power electrical outlets in offices on level 3.

The $59 million construction project was funded by the University of California, the California Public Utilities Commission, and appropriations from the state of California, along with private support.

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Publication date: 9/21/2015

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