Berkeley Lab Science Beat Magazine banner Berkeley Lab logo
February 17, 2004
The Energy-Efficient New York Times Building, part 2
A testbed for advanced daylighting
The transparent design of the New York Times building not only brings in daylight; it symbolizes the newspaper's mission to shed light on the life of the city and the nation.

The New York Times Company's engineering staff was seeking a set of integrated technologies that could effectively dim electric lighting and automatically deploy shading when appropriate, to take advantage of daylight benefits while providing comfort. They were unable to find a system on the market that they believed would meet their requirements.

David Thurm, Real Estate Vice President for the New York Times Company, says, "We were excited to find that LBNL's prior work was relevant to our project. As an owner/operator, our primary interest is ensuring that the working environment in our building meets the comfort needs of our employees. The solutions we are developing in the mockup will verify that the control systems and operating strategies will function effectively and provide the productive work environment needed by our employees under a wide range of climate conditions."

Selkowitz notes that "the New York Times, as a motivated and concerned owner, has provided us with a great opportunity to advance the use of daylighting as an energy efficiency strategy. In partnership with our team, lead by Eleanor Lee, they designed and have just completed a 4,500 square-foot south and west quadrant of one floor of the building on the grounds of their printing plant in College Point, New York. This full size mockup will allow us to demonstrate and test the key hardware, calibration and operational controls issues, allowing the team to specify a technological solution that meets both comfort and energy-saving goals."

Although it was originally intended to be a conventional furniture mockup in a dark warehouse, says Selkowitz, with its glass curtain wall and exterior shading "the test structure has become a working daylighting laboratory, complete with lighting controls and interior automated shading, as well as furniture and interior finishes, to solve a design challenge that has eluded building owners throughout the country."

One floor of the New York Times Company's printing plant in College Point, New York has been modified as a fully equipped, 4,500-square-foot mockup of the planned new building's interior.

After the Times had offered to cover the cost of constructing the outdoor mockup, the Berkeley Lab/Times team successfully competed in a solicitation from the New York State Energy Research and Development Administration for the additional funding required to carry out its extensive instrumentation and monitoring and the associated analysis. The Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission also provided a share of the costs, as did the hardware vendors, making this a national partnership.

Berkeley Lab will direct the 12-month, state-of-the-art performance evaluation in the testbed, and working with the Times Company will use project results to develop performance specifications, which should stimulate the building industry to provide lower cost technologies and systems that meet the needs of the building. Using this approach, the industry's experience with the Times building will help proliferate daylighting to other buildings.

"We think that demonstrating these technologies in a landmark building will gain them far more attention among manufacturers and specifiers than through more conventional lab-based research," says Selkowitz.

The New York Times Company, its architecture and engineering firms, and a Berkeley Lab team led by Eleanor Lee—consisting of Selkowitz, Francis Rubinstein, Dennis Dibartolomeo, Christian Kohler, Robert Clear, Greg Debra Ward, Judy Lai, David Watson, Howdy Goudey, Robin Mitchell, and Danny Fuller—have been working together to develop the R&D project plan and launch the project. They have held a series of design "charrettes" on the East and West Coasts and meetings with the building-supply industry. (Charrette, French for cart, is a term that originated among architecture students at the École des Beaux Arts, slang for piling on the work to meet project deadlines.)

Instruments in the mockup facility gauge the effectiveness of lighting controls, automated shading, furniture designs, and even interior finishes for the working environment of the New York Times building to come.

The mockup facility and final calibration of the instrumentation are now complete. Testing began on schedule on December 21, the winter solstice. While most of Berkeley Lab celebrated the holidays at home, Lee and her team were anxiously monitoring the data flow from the mockup. Watch the pages of Science Beat for the test results as they become available.

Additional information

The Energy-Efficient New York Times Building, part 1