Lawrence Berkeley Labs opens building efficiency test lab

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At the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory the new FLEXLAB opened with the technology to test energy efficiency before a building is built.

It's hard to know just how energy efficient a building really is until it is constructed. Now a new laboratory can test drive its design beforehand.

On Thursday, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory they cut the ribbon for the new FLEXLAB.

The reason why it's called FLEXLAB is because it's flexible. The windows, HVAC system and building materials are all interchangeable. The entire lab rotates on a giant turntable so they can simulate the sun's angle as it would be on different sides of a building.

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley Labs say buildings designed to be energy efficient often times end up using twice the energy expected.

FLEXLAB executive director Cindy Regnier said, "Using false color, we're showing what the lighting quality is in the space."

Now the most energy efficient technologies can be combined and tested in the new FLEXLAB before the actual building is constructed.

"So right now we've got a building under construction," Carla Boragno from Genentech said.

Genentech, in South San Francisco, used FLEXLAB and its sensors to simulate then test drive a 250,000 square foot building before breaking ground.

"We're going to be able to take the data from this experiment to actually influence some of the building's systems, so the electrical systems, lighting systems and mechanical system," Boragno said.

The window's, lighting, HVAC system, interior building materials are all interchangeable and the lab actually rotates to mimic the sun and lighting conditions in other regions. One machine they have at the lab simulates body heat.

"It introduces heat load into the space which is something the air conditioning and ventilation system have to address. If you have a lot of people in a space, it's a very big part of that load," Regnier said.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman says this all ties in to the president's action plan to reduce our energy consumption 50 percent, by 2030.

"If we don't really bend the curve on efficiency, we're just not going to make the targets, and the targets are ambitious," Poneman said.

Americans spend more than $400 billion a year in energy and almost half of that goes to operate residential, industrial and commercial buildings.

The research uncovered at FLEXLAB will be available for all to use.
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scienceenergyconstructiontechnologyBerkeleyUC Berkeley
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