Department of Energy
The federal government has just finished construction on a zero-energy office building, the nation’s largest, and is hoping that commercial developers will follow its lead. The 222,000-square-foot Research Support Facility is on the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory campus in Golden, Colo. Just over 800 employees will occupy the building once it officially opens in late August.
A zero-energy building creates as much energy as it uses over the course of a year, said John Andary, a principal at Stantec, the sustainable design consultants for the project. Thanks to various “passive” design techniques and technologies, the facility will consume 50 percent less energy than buildings constructed to current commercial codes, he predicts. The remaining power needs will be generated onsite from solar panels, allowing the building to operate at an annual net-zero energy basis.
Remarkably, many of the efficiency “innovations” are existing building techniques, some of them centuries old, that were developed to make the best use of natural light and the earth’s ability to heat and cool. By contrast, modern building design, based on the ubiquity of cheap energy, moved away from many of those principles.