In our view, buildings are more than the facilities we work in, sleep in, or eat at. Buildings account for about 40 percent of our nation's energy use and they consume 75 percent of our nation’s electricity, but there are significant opportunities to improve the way buildings function.
With more than three decades of experience in building energy research, PNNL is central to the nation’s efforts to improve the energy efficiency of homes and buildings while making them more comfortable. Our research teams have delivered energy savings via building energy codes, by supporting dramatic acceleration of highly efficient solid-state lighting products, and by developing advanced building controls.
Continuing advances in efficient and “smart” technologies, as well as onsite renewable energy, are changing the way power is used in buildings. Our researchers are developing and evaluating advanced building controls that, when deployed, could cut energy consumption in buildings by nearly 30 percent. We are also investigating control strategies that enable coordination of building assets—such as water heaters and air conditioning systems—with the electric grid. PNNL is taking energy management one step further through building-grid integration on our primary campus in Richland—a living laboratory where our buildings are energy-aware, self-commissioning, and ready to engage with the electricity grid.
Other unique laboratory assets include a pair of research homes that allow us to evaluate technologies that can be added to a home after construction to improve efficiency. PNNL’s lighting facilities—the Connected Lighting Testbed, the Lighting Metrology Lab, and the Lumen Maintenance Test Facility—allow us to independently test and evaluate advanced lighting systems. Our Building Diagnostics Lab is fitted with an air handling unit, variable-air-volume terminal boxes, an air-cooled chiller, and a control panel. This lab, along with two packaged HVAC units, enable HVAC control research at PNNL. Additional building control research related to whole-building control is done at our Advanced Building Controls Laboratory.
Efficient buildings, effectively integrated as energy assets into the grid, can become a key component for grid resiliency. We will continue to explore these buildings and homes, experimenting with them and developing technologies that make them more efficient and better places to eat, sleep, and work.