GOLDEN, Colo. — One of the nation’s largest net zero-energy office building's, the 222,000-square-foot Research Support Facility will house over 800 employees from the United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Construction wrapped up this summer on the $64 million RSF, which is expected to consume 50 percent less energy than equivalent-sized commercial buildings.
Currently pursuing LEED Platinum certification, the RSF was built in a “lazy H” formation with a narrow 60-foot floor-plate, allowing 100 percent of interior offices and rooms to have access to natural light. Once daylight enters south-facing windows, it is reflected to the ceiling and into deep office spaces using interior light-reflecting tools.
Other energy efficient features include an under-floor air distribution system, radiant and evaporative heating and cooling piping, insulated pre-cast concrete panels and a 1.6-megawatt rooftop and carport solar panel system. Radiant piping in the RSF uses water to cool and heat the majority of workspaces, instead of forced air.
Though the RSF increased the NREL’s campus square footage by 60 percent, the energy increase from the addition was 6 percent, which will likely be offset by the photovoltaic system. The office building was designed to achieve 32,000 BTU’s per square foot, per year.
Approximately 20 percent of the building’s materials are made from recycled content, including aggregate in the foundations and concrete slabs that came from the demolition of Denver’s defunct Stapleton International Airport, torn down in 1995. Countertops throughout the building have been covered in linoleum made from natural materials like pressed-together jute and cork.
Beneath the structure, an underground concrete thermal labyrinth captures daytime heat or nighttime coolness and stores the energy to warm or cool down the building at a later point. In the winter, the labyrinth draws and stores heat from the computers in the building’s data center and from warm air produced by a transpired air collector.
Evaporative chillers helped along as needed by a central chilled water plant cool down the RSF’s green data center.
During construction, 78 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills to the project, which cost about $259 per square foot to construct. Comparatively, the nearby Signature Center, a LEED Platinum office building, cost $247 per square foot to build, and the LEED Silver-rated Civic Center of Commerce City, about 18 miles away, cost $310 per square foot.
Constructed under a design-build contract, the RSF was built by Haselden Construction of Centennial, Colo., and designed by the Denver office of international architectural firm, RNL.
Funding for the RSF came from money set aside for the NREL under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Just over $100 million was set aside for infrastructure improvements to the NREL last year, including more than $19 million for solar, geothermal and fuel cell projects campus-wide, and $13.5 million for an integrated bio-refinery research facility to develop new ethanol technologies.