Recently, the design and construction team of SmithGroupJJR and JE Dunn Construction celebrated the dedication of the new $135 million Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) campus in Golden, Colorado. A model in sustainable design and energy efficient performance, the ESIF creates a new home for scientists and engineers to collaborate on the development and delivery of renewable energy technologiesHousing the most powerful and energy efficient data center in the world dedicated solely to renewable energy and energy efficiency research, this advanced research complex will transform the nation’s energy infrastructure.
SmithGroupJJR, an architecture, engineering, and planning firm, designed the three-story, 182,500-square-foot research complex, and JE Dunn Construction performed as general contractor for the design-build venture.
Located southeast of the existing SmithGroupJJR-designed Science & Technology Facility, the ESIF is the nation’s only facility that can conduct integrated megawatt-scale testing of the components and strategies needed to safely move clean energy technologies onto the electrical grid “in-flight” at the speed and scale required to meet federal policy.
The ESIF incorporates the best in energy efficiency, environmental performance, and advanced controls using a “whole building” integrated design approach that complies with Energy Star standards. SmithGroupJJR and JE Dunn worked together to support the Department of Energy’s goal to develop an energy efficient building that imparts minimal impact on the environment. The ESIF is designed to earn a LEED Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council and is anticipated to become the highest certified facility of its type to include a high-performance computing data center as a major building component.
Consisting of 14 laboratories, a high-bay control room, outdoor testing pads, an office building, and a computing data center, the facility houses 200 researchers dedicated to delivering emerging solar, hydrogen, biofuel and wind technologies to the mainstream marketplace. Central to the laboratories is the Research Electrical Distribution Bus (REDB), the nation’s first integrated, megawatt-scale hardware-in-the-loop real-time simulation system. The REDB allows researchers and manufacturers to conduct integration tests at full power and actual load levels in real-time simulation and evaluate component and system performance before going to market. A petascale computing data and visualization center extends the ESIF’s research capabilities and enables large-scale modeling and simulation of material properties, processes, and fully integrated systems that would be cost-prohibitive to study by direct experimentation. The visualization center offers the ability to experience these complex systems simulations in a three-dimensional, immersive virtual environment.
Targeting stringently low-energy consumption rates, the team employed a range of advanced technologies and best practices to balance the building’s energy and performance goals:
– Operable windows enable natural cooling and ventilation throughout the building
– Solar-powered fans aid in extracting heat load from office environments
– Vertical and horizontal exterior shading devices control daylight entering the building and mitigate solar heat gain
– Large expanses of diffuse clerestory glazing combined with 15-foot long skylights deliver daylight deep into the middle of the floor plates
– Electrical lights are shut off from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm daily in the office and laboratory buildings
– Process and electrical energy from experiments is managed, harvested, and transferred to other laboratories for simultaneous use/reuse
– Waste heat from the data center is captured and reused to heat the facility during winter months and is also exported to other parts of the campus
The ESIF office building has achieved an energy consumption rate (EUI) of 23.0 kBTU per square foot annually, 74% better than the national average. Power usage effectiveness (PUE) rate for the data center is 1.04; the national average data center PUE ranges between 1.5 and 2.0.
JE Dunn Construction has 20 offices in 14 states ( and maintains local offices in Denver and Colorado Springs, providing construction throughout the Rocky Mountains. SmithGroupJJR’s ( Science & Technology Practice has completed the planning and design of over 18 million square feet of academic, corporate, and government research laboratories across the United States, ranging from small laboratory renovations to large research campuses.