Research Support Facilities designed as commercially viable, zero energy prototype
The US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab and Research Support Facilities is not only a mouthful to say, but is designed as a prototype for commercially viable zero energy offices. Providing 218,000 sq ft of office space, the building is designed to achieve and go beyond a LEED-NC Platinum certification level, incorporating a combination of timeless design concepts and new energy solutions to achieve a net zero energy.
Achieving a net zero energy building requires creating a building with very low energy consumption that is offset with on-site renewable energy generation. The design of the RSF is based on simple timeless concepts of respecting the natural environment and configuring the building to respond to the movement of the sun. The shape of the building, a “lazy H” configuration, is the result of two multi-storey office bars oriented along the east-west axis. This allows for optimum daylight access and a perpendicular connector that contains the shared public spaces within the building. The balanced south and north glazing eliminates undue energy gain or loss.
This configuration also creates two exterior courtyards that are distinct in purpose and shape. The east entry court will embrace the public visitor entrance with an appropriately scaled civic space, while the employee courtyard to the west forms a more intimate enclosure for conversation. Because of the extensive exterior envelope required to optimize daylighting and natural ventilation, the design team devised an exterior wall system that is modular, thermally massive and carried on an efficient structural bay. The column free, structural grid of 30’ wide by 60’ deep is very economical and integrates the building’s 'kit of parts' approach that also includes the interior demountable wall systems, raised floor system and workplace furniture systems that all support the passive design strategies. The new energy solutions include photovoltaics, radiant slabs, and energy efficient lighting, among others.