> FOCUS BY JEFF GAVIN
FLEXLAB stands for “Facility for Low-Energy Experiments
in Buildings.” It comprises seven customized labs, each designed
to reduce energy load through research and development (R&D),
demonstration, and verification. Analyzing design complexity
and integration are key capabilities of the new facility.
“We all know lighting and HVAC impact energy use in a
space, but so do added sensors and controls,” said Stephen
Selkowitz, who is leading Berkeley’s FLEXLAB research and
development program. “For example, say you’ve calculated the
savings you might achieve with LED lighting, but you are also
going to use motorized shading and a daylighting control system.
Savings become less clear as these controls interact. The shading
certainly lowers your cooling load, but it has its own draw, and
now you’ll use more artificial lighting. So, what are your savings?
These kinds of scenarios can be played out in one of our test beds
and reconfigured before an install or final design.”
A testing landscape
Four individual test beds have been built outside the Berkeley
lab’s main science office building. Each test bed can be reconfigured when investigating everything, from code-compliant
design to net-zero aspirations, checking out any combination
of building envelope, lighting and HVAC systems. One test bed
sits on a 64-foot-diameter turntable, an industry first, allowing
customers to explore options in building orientation, best-case
daylighting and control, solar panel placement and angle, and
other concerns. The lab can rotate 270 degrees to actively track
the sun or test a building design in any fixed orientation (
southeast to northeast).
A second test bed is equipped to meet the leading energy-performance standards of California’s Title 24. Another
lab resembles a building circa 1970–80 to allow for retrofit
strategies. The fourth test bed is two stories high ( 24 feet) to
I MAGINE A LABORATORY where you could envision, develop and confirm your building design before or during construction. Investigate building system performance by staging an office facsimile. Make final specifications on sustainability measures prior to occupancy. No need to imagine it: It’s called FLEXLAB, a $15.7-million research complex at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.
FLEXLAB adds a new
dimension to building design
Trial Before Error