August 24, 2000


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BERKELEY, CA — A new three-year public-private research initiative, which will target substantial reductions in the $100 billion spent annually in energy costs for commercial buildings, has been launched under the leadership of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

More than $13 million in research funding has been committed by the California Energy Commission, the DOE, private sector partners and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Berkeley Lab has assembled a team of 14 public and private sector partners to carry out the varied tasks within the High-Performance Commercial Buildings Systems Program.

The program will develop new information technologies to design, commission, and operate buildings, and integrated design techniques to generate substantial and sustained energy savings in commercial buildings -- offices, schools, and other structures used in commercial activities. Partnerships with the private sector will commercialize and deploy these technologies in the marketplace. Principal investigators include Stephen Selkowitz, Philip Haves, Mary Ann Piette and William Fisk of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division; Steven Blanc of PG&E; and Dave Claridge of Texas A&M.

"In California alone," says Selkowitz, "implementation of technologies and practices developed in this research program for both new and existing buildings could reduce overall commercial sector electricity consumption by 22 percent by 2015." And long before that, Selkowitz believes, the program’s activities will help California businesses and utilities address more immediate needs such as responding to the load management and curtailment crises in California.

"Commercial building owners in the United States spend almost $100 billion per year on their energy bills," says Selkowitz. "New buildings today are often more efficient than existing building stock, thanks in part to DOE’s building energy standards and the use of DOE-2, an energy-efficient building design program developed at Berkeley Lab."

"With new technologies and better systems integration, we cost-effectively could achieve savings as high as 50 percent or better in new buildings as compared with buildings that meet current codes, while improving the indoor environments in these workplaces," he adds. "But even when they are designed well, buildings are often not operated to achieve the expected energy savings. This program will address not just technologies and design practices, but building operation and maintenance practices to maximize energy efficiency, and the health and comfort of the occupants."

Studies conducted at Berkeley Lab suggest that in typical cases, commissioning and improved operations of buildings could save 20 percent of current energy use in existing buildings. (Commissioning is the process of checking and fine-tuning a new building’s mechanical systems to meet operating specifications after completion but before it is occupied.).

The program will develop new technologies, and design and operations practices in five areas: 1) life-cycle tools -- the information management systems for efficient building design and operations; 2) lighting, envelopes and daylighting -- hardware and software to control lighting and ventilation systems, and dynamic window systems that modulate the amount of daylight and solar heat passing through them into the building; 3) low-energy cooling -- novel design strategies and systems for minimizing peak and annual cooling needs in buildings; 4) integrated commissioning and diagnostics -- procedures for cost-effectively commissioning buildings, monitoring ongoing performance, and identifying and diagnosing performance faults ; and 5) indoor environmental quality -- technologies to provide improved ventilation and minimize indoor pollutants in portable classrooms. Berkeley Lab will work with a team of 14 subcontractors and cost-sharing industrial partners to develop and deploy these technologies.

A unique feature of this initiative is the participation of northern California’s utility, PG&E, in helping deploy the products of this research. Through its Pacific Energy Center training classes and outreach programs, as well as demonstration projects, PG&E will provide the connections necessary to help move R&D results into the marketplace.

Total program support includes $6 million from CEC’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. DOE matching funds over the life of the program are projected to be about $2.5 million, coming from several research areas within the Office of Building Technologies, State and Community Programs. In each area the new CEC projects are designed to extend important DOE-supported work.

The agreement marks a significant milestone for the DOE’s Office of Building Technologies, State and Community Programs’ efforts to cooperate with state governments to develop energy-efficient technologies and practices. This program is the first major agreement between the Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission to develop and implement technologies that save consumers money on their energy bills and reduce air pollution.

The CEC’s PIER program also made four two-year project-direct awards in end-use energy efficiency to Berkeley Lab totaling $2.35 million. The research will cover (1) instrumented home energy rating and commissioning; (2) energy-efficient downlights for California kitchens; (3) heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) distribution systems in commercial buildings; and (4) next-generation power management user interface for office equipment. Each of these projects builds on past DOE-funded work in Berkeley Lab’s building R&D programs.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California.