accommodate designs from high-bay warehouses to atrium
and other lobby spaces. It features reconfigurable skylights and
clerestories. Finally, test beds for controls hardware, lighting
controls and plug loads, and virtual design are located within
the main science office building.
FLEXLAB allows its clients to modify and optimize system
performance as dictated by the space in which they will eventually reside. That’s different.
“Through client-informed room mockups, we can moni-
tor the energy usage of a lighting system and vary the setups;
record how much lighting loads go up and down; discover light
levels at the back of the room,” Selkowitz said. “Our building
simulation test beds are a rare opportunity for early R&D prod-
uct development, too. Clients can try and push the envelope as
a way of seeing what’s achievable.”
Selkowitz added that FLEXLAB does not ignore the value
of virtual design, rather it emphasizes its importance as part of
integrated design. In its virtual design testbed, various members
of a building team can sit at a computer station, working on their
portion of a project design. Work is displayed on a smartboard
for everyone to see. Team members can discuss and analyze the
effects of design decisions on their own work and make collab-
orative design decisions. The test bed can accommodate building
information modeling (BIM) and other virtual design platforms.
The complete FLEXLAB operation features almost a thousand sensors used for data collection, with room for more than
twice that amount. Cameras are equipped to record internal
sun patterns for daylighting studies and meters measure power,
thermal loads, airflow, lighting and glare. FLEXLAB’s $1 million data-acquisition (DAQ) system reports measurements
instantaneously in real time. To ensure proprietary information, single-test performance data from different participating
vendors is not shared.
Bringing the building community together
FLEXLAB brings together manufacturers and the building community to collaborate with research staff in the development,
simulation and validation of efficient building technologies.
Clients may use the facility at different stages of their project
development, be it conceptual or more developed design.
FLEXLAB’s first major project is underway. San Francisco-based Webcor Builders has been commissioned to design/
build a 200,000-square-foot office building in that city for
Genentech, a major biotech company. This newest addition to
the Genentech campus is currently under construction. Both
parties want to confirm the design and configuration of the
building—a “precommissioning,” so to speak.
At press time, Webcor was in the early weeks of a three-month lab test that will explore its planned use of lighting
controls; automated shading; HVAC control sequences; phase-change materials for a low-profile access floor; and glare
avoidance tactics through furniture and its placement.
Phil Williams, vice president for Webcor, leads the company’s Sustainability and Technical Systems group, which includes
electrical. “This is all about the client deciding to invest in test-
FLEXLAB has four
individual test beds built
outside the Berkeley
lab’s main science office
Within the rotating test bed,
high dynamic range imaging
cameras assess daylight glare
at workstations. The cameras
accurately capture the room
luminance to calculate the
probability of such glare.
This single-story test
bed rotates 270 degrees
from southeast to
northeast to help in
design and features.