The greenest building around

6:17 AM, Jul 20, 2010   |    comments
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NREL's new Research Support Facility is 222,000 square feet and as large as that may be, it has the potential to produce as much energy as it uses.

"It's a net-zero energy building. There are solar panels on the roof and on the parking structure and while the RSF will still be on the grid, the energy it produces should meet most, if not all of the buildings needs," said Jeff Baker with the NREL office of laboratory operations.

There are also no heaters or air conditioners.

"We use water to heat and cool the building. Hot water comes from a heating plant that burns wood waste and cold water comes from evaporative cooling, which are like big swamp coolers," Baker said.

There are walls made of beetle-kill wood, desks and cabinetry made of sunflower seeds, light fixtures made of recycled plastic bottles and reinforcement beams made of left over natural gas pipes.

"One of the things that is critical about this building is that everything was designed around energy and that we used it wisely," NREL Design Manager Philip Macey said.

But how much does it cost?

"We're doing this building at the same cost as we do less energy efficient buildings. But energy efficiency has gotten a bad reputation because its been used as an added on feature and you cant win that way - to get to a very low energy performance - make those decisions up front," Macey said.

In other words, you get the most bang for your buck if you plan ahead. However, the building cost $64 million to build.

This building will house 780 employees.

But it is just phase one for NREL.

The federal agency is breaking ground on phase two in a few weeks and that building will house another 500 NREL employees.

To learn more about the Research Support Facility and the work NREL is doing, log onto

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