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Berkeley Lab Hosts Preview of First Phase of FlexLab

November 19, 2012 By Linda Hardesty

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory opened the first two testbeds of FLEXLAB, the Facility for Low Energy Experiments in Buildings. The new testbeds are the Lighting and Plug Loads Testbed and the Virtual Design Testbed.

Constructed within an existing building, Berkeley Lab researchers and their partners will study and demonstrate energy-efficient lighting and plug load systems, and collaborate in the design of the next generation of energy-efficient, automatically monitored and controlled buildings.

Researchers in Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division held a series of workshops last week for a broad cross-section of industry, utilities, Department of Energy, state and local governments, manufacturers, and the architectural and engineering design community to learn more about FLEXLAB, which will eventually include four additional testbeds in a new outdoor facility.

The Lighting and Plug Loads Testbed is a densely instrumented living laboratory that can be used to test real-life office environments, allowing for a wide variety of control strategies ranging from fully automated control, to manual control by occupants. Users can monitor every change in the power use and lighting conditions of the testbed continuously and in real-time. Every duplex power outlet is individually monitored and can be turned on or off by occupants, or can be programmed for other controls such as by occupancy.

In the Virtual Design Testbed, users will design and optimize advanced energy-efficient buildings in a collaborative setting. Participants who are present in the room, as well as those joining meetings remotely, will put up and modify ideas, share data, and develop designs collaboratively, using state-of-the-art building energy design and simulation tools such as the recently released Simergy tool, which provides a graphical user interface to EnergyPlus. This setting will be used to help develop interoperable software tools used not only for building design, but for commissioning and operations as well.

Eventually, the outdoor testbeds will focus on developing technologies and solutions applicable to ultra-low energy designs for new construction and retrofit buildings, in the areas of HVAC, lighting, shading and facades.

Construction teams will shortly begin building four testbeds outside the building at Berkeley Lab containing the new interior testbeds. FLEXLAB’s exterior facility will be completed late in 2013.

The six interior and exterior testbeds total over 9,000 square feet and are funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act through the US Department of Energy. Total ARRA funding is $15.7 million.

In the new exterior facility, each module will be reconfigurable – depending on the research plan, users will be able replace windows, walls, access floor, lighting, HVAC systems and other elements with prototypes for testing. The interior spaces will be reconfigurable – they can be divided into zones and outfitted as offices.

One testbed can be rotated to different orientations with respect to the sun, to adjust the structure’s solar exposure as desired. It can reset its position every 60 seconds to align with solar orientation to measure how sun position impacts energy use and interior conditions.

Another double-height testbed is designed to test technologies designed for two-story high structures, with applications that include big box retail environments. These modules will also test technologies such as skylights and clerestories.

Diverse instrumentation in the testbeds will allow users to remotely monitor and control a wide range of variables from energy use to exterior weather to interior comfort conditions. Occupancy sensors, air-flow and room pressure measurements, lighting and glare, and thermal conditions are among the factors that the facility’s instrumentation can monitor.

Stantec Architecture is the architect of record, with mechanical and electrical engineering by Integral Group and structural engineering by Tipping Mar.


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