"At SmithGroupJJR, our mission is to create a legacy of inspiring places that enhance the environment and enrich the human spirit. Sustainable design is at the core of what we do. Through multi-discipline, integrated design, we’re committed to delivering sustainable solutions not only for our clients but for the overall health of our planet. In this vein, we at SmithGroupJJR also practice what we preach as we reduce the overall footprint within our own organization through our operations, education, work environment and process."
June 23, 2014
As SmithGroupJJR celebrates reaching our 100th LEED certified project, sustainability leaders recall working on some of the LEED certified projects that have helped us become one of the leading sustainable design firms in the U.S. In this blog post, Eric Kirkland recalls the process of designing the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s new Energy Systems Integration Facility and explains why he’s just as excited about the project’s future performance.
The thing that gets me jazzed about coming to work every morning is the creative design process we engage in to provide solutions that energize our clients. In the case of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), I’m still riding the high. Home to 200 scientists and engineers, the mission of ESIF is to optimize the design and performance of electrical, thermal and fuel systems with the objective to integrate clean and sustainable energy technologies into the nation’s electrical power grid.
The 182,500-square-foot (17,190-square-meter) facility is a first-of-its-kind design with a unique merging of three distinct and very specialized components: an ultra-green workplace, a high performance computing data center, and a highly sophisticated high-bay laboratory. The challenge and question for our design team, given the fact that each building component had a specific function and identity, was to answer the question, “Can the whole be designed to perform better than the congruent parts?“
The answer was a resounding YES.
The design process started with a focus on the unique specifics that would influence the energy and sustainable performance of the facility. The high performance computing data center (HPCDC) was our first focus because of the large amount of power consumed and associated heat rejection. Our design eliminated much of the HVAC and computing server fan energy by using indirect evaporative cooled water to reject heat from the computer racks. Heat from the HPCDC was then captured in the form of 105° F water; instead of rejecting this heat to the environment, we decided to use it to provide heat for the office area and to pre-condition make-up air to the high bay laboratories.
As the data center grows, there’s also a provision to export this heat to other buildings on campus. The HPCDC operates at a Power Use Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.04, making it one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world.
The office wing of ESIF boasts a highly calibrated envelope with a daylight harvesting strategy that allows the lights to be off from 10am-2pm each day. A low energy mechanical cooling approach of active chilled beams -- coupled with underfloor displacement ventilation working in concert with a natural ventilation system of operable windows and solar assisted air convection / light shafts -- resulted in a measured Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of 26.0 kbtu/sf/yr. That’s an impressive 70% below the national average for office buildings, and it will only improve with time.
That’s the crazy thing about a holistic sustainable design approach. With the metrics we’re collecting through a robust energy dash board that’s intelligently collecting and monitoring data from various aspects of building operation (such as lighting, indoor air quality, space temperature, access control, and computer workstation activity), the project now has and will continue to develop a profile mapping of space occupancy and energy use. This data is being used to calibrate and dynamically adjust our system operational strategies to maximize comfort and efficiency. That’s why I know the performance numbers will be better next year. What a beautiful thing.
The ESIF project has strengthened my belief in the process of serving our clients through a holistic design philosophy that characterizes a design problem into its constituent component parts and through an integrative and synergistic design approach provides the highest value to our clients.
The process for ESIF led to a LEED-NC Platinum certification and soon after, honors from R & D Magazine as the 2014 “Laboratory of the Year.” Can I get even more excited about ESIF than I already am? Ask me next year when the newest performance numbers are in!