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Twin buildings offer unique energy monitoring opportunity

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March 15, 1995 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — They look the same, "act" the same and even sit side by side, but like some twins, they have very different personalities. The clone buildings at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest Laboratory appear the same to the naked eye, but differ significantly in energy- efficiency features, providing a rare opportunity to determine firsthand the actual savings.

The 100,000-square-foot buildings are identical in design, materials, occupancy levels, location and use, though the new Environmental Technology Building was constructed with every cost-effective, energy-saving feature.

"It's extremely rare to have twin buildings built by the same contractor that are identical in every aspect, right down to the type of office equipment, internal activity and operating schedule, that differ only in energy efficiency features," said Graham Parker, program manager at PNL.

"Typically, results from this type of comparison study are flawed by just one or two varying aspects, but this situation is extremely unique in that we could not identify any differing factors that could impact direct comparison," Parker added.

Detailed energy consumption information will be collected over the next year through microprocessor-controlled data loggers developed by PNL for previous energy monitoring studies. Data will be gathered from a total of 324 different distribution points to determine the individual savings derived from each feature. Results are expected by summer 1996 and will be available to utilities, industry and federal, state and local governments to confirm the value of energy-efficient technologies.

Construction of the ETB marks the first time all cost-effective, energy- saving features have been built into a facility leased by PNL -- an effort that required collaboration among five separate agencies. With DOE support, PNL researchers conducted life-cycle cost analyses to identify feasible energy-saving features. PNL then worked with the developer, Sigma Financial Group, to incorporate the technologies into the building design. Rebates by the Bonneville Power Administration, offered through the local utility, transformed several cost-prohibitive features into cost-effective options.

"Due to low electricity rates in the Pacific Northwest, it took a real effort to identify technologies in which lifetime savings outweighed capital costs," Parker said.

The end result is PNL's most efficient building, constructed beyond Washington state efficiency requirements. Energy-saving features include a high-efficiency heating, cooling and ventilation system equipped with a carbon dioxide monitoring unit that determines, and draws in, only the amount of fresh air actually needed based on building use; compact, high-efficiency fluorescent lighting twice as efficient as standard fluorescent lights; refrigerators that consume 30 percent less energy than the most efficient model on the market today; and coated, double-paned exterior windows filled with argon gas that significantly reduce energy loss through unwanted heat transfer. In all, these and other features are expected to result in savings of $200,000 over the next five years.

Tags: Energy, Energy Efficiency

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