PNNL's building sciences -- From concept to commercialization
At one of its state-of-the-art facilities,
PNNL conducts organic-inorganic
thin film research in the pursuit of
revolutionary low-cost, efficient lighting.
The Department of Energy has a new vision for residential
and commercial buildings in the United States—net-zero energy
buildings that will produce as much energy as they consume.
According to DOE, the building sector—including residential
and commercial buildings—currently is the largest energy
consumer. Through new technologies and design approaches,
however, a building constructed in 2025 may be 60-70 percent
more energy efficient than one built today, with the remainder of
its energy needs coming from renewable technologies, such as solar
and wind, or other zero-emission sources.
"Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is supporting
DOE in its efforts to reach zero-energy buildings through
activities ranging from basic research to developing and
moving new technologies into the marketplace," said
Marylynn Placet, who oversees PNNL's work for the DOE
Building Technologies Program. "Ultimately, our goal is
to develop innovative approaches for buildings and help
transform the market to accept them."
Assisting government and the private sector
With a diverse staff of scientists, engineers, economists
and market analysts, PNNL conducts a wide range of
buildings projects for DOE and other agencies, such as the
U.S. Army and Navy. For decades, PNNL has helped the
federal government improve efficiency through better operating
and maintenance processes, sustainable design practices,
analytical tool development and other types of technical
assistance. PNNL also documents best practices in residential
construction, in support of DOE's Building America program,
to help private-sector builders reduce energy use.
Another one of PNNL's long-term projects involves
developing and deploying sensors, diagnostics, and controls
with the same
Providing the science foundation
PNNL's basic research in materials science, thin film
deposition and modeling serve as the foundation for a number
of breakthroughs. For example, PNNL materials scientists are
experimenting with biomaterials and new modular construction
techniques for residences. At the molecular level, PNNL
research is advancing the development of organic light-emitting
diodes or OLEDs, a form of solid-state lighting that provides
exceptional brightness, can be constructed with inexpensive
materials and offers low energy consumption. Success in this
research could transform lighting in buildings.
Helping consumers choose efficiency
In addition to the cutting-edge research in support of solidstate
lighting technology, PNNL staff members are working to
facilitate deployment in the marketplace. For example, PNNL
is helping DOE develop ENERGY STAR® specifications
and testing procedures for solid-state lighting products that
will ensure that devices exhibit the kind of energy-efficient
performance consumers expect. In addition, the PNNLmanaged
Light Right Consortium research is helping building
owners understand the positive impacts on worker productivity
associated with energy-efficient, quality lighting design.
Reshaping the market
Since 1991, PNNL's Building Energy Codes Program, or
BECP, has delivered cumulative energy cost savings of almost
$8 billion and saved enough energy to meet the requirements
of about five million homes for a year. BECP works closely
with national codes organizations to develop model codes
that maximize energy efficiency in cost-effective and easyto-
understand ways. In addition, BECP works with state
and local governments to adopt the new model codes and
develops software tools that allow builders to determine if their
buildings meet the energy code.
Researchers at PNNL also are helping DOE develop
energy-efficiency standards for building equipment—some
for the first time. PNNL is analyzing air conditioners and
heat pumps typically used in hotels; commercial refrigeration
equipment, such as refrigerated and freezer cases in grocery
stores; and beverage vending machines.
PNNL capabilities in materials science, mechanical and
electrical engineering, building energy analysis, simulation
modeling, economics and market analysis underlie much of the
cutting-edge research being conducted by PNNL for the Building
Technologies Program and other agencies. PNNL is helping make
net-zero energy buildings a reality by 2025—or sooner.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.