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Solar Energy Research Center Opens at Berkeley Lab

LBNL solar research ctr Energy ManageThe Solar Energy Research Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is officially open.

Dubbed Chu Hall in honor of former US Department of Energy Secretary and Berkeley Lab director Steven Chu, the $59 million research center is Berkeley Lab’s latest addition to a collection of buildings that create a hub of interactive and collaborative research.

The 39,000-square-foot, three-story building is the new home for 100 researchers, most from the DOE-funded Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), the nation’s largest research program dedicated to the development of an artificial solar-fuel generation technology.

The building also houses the administrative offices of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute, which explores energy science and nanomaterials.

The building provides a state-of-the-art facility that meets all of the specialized laboratory requirements needed to support the development of artificial solar-fuel generation technology. The design and construction of the building voluntarily responded to the DOE’s mandate of 30 percent energy savings based on ASHRAE 90.1. LEED Gold certification is also targeted.

The building includes the following energy-efficient features:

  • Runaround heat recovery, which in the winter utilizes the building’s waste heat energy to heat the outside air brought into the building and in the summer cools it.
  • High-efficiency condensing boilers.
  • High-efficiency chillers with variable frequency drives.
  • Evaporative pre-cooling hybrid system.
  • Mechanical systems that know when a window is open in an office.
  • A narrow building footprint on levels 2 and 3 with abundant windows and skylights allows for daylight to enter and minimizes lighting consumption.
  • LED lighting.
  • Occupancy and daylight sensors.
  • Daylight harvesting with lights that dim when sufficient daylight is available.

In addition, a green roof at the north and south portions of level 1 provide thermal insulating qualities and minimize heat gain, along with an east-west axis with the smallest façade facing south. Energy efficient, low-E glazing is used on the exterior.

Renewable energy sources include solar hot water panels for domestic, hot water heating. Photovoltaic panels power electrical outlets in offices on the third level.

The $59 million construction project was funded by the University of California, the California Public Utilities Commission and appropriations from the State of California, along with private support. SmithGroupJJR designed the building.

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