News Center

Berkeley Lab Launches Building Energy Performance Research Project at New FLEXLAB Testing Facility

FLEXLAB™, the Facility for Low Energy experiments in Buildings, run by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab) Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD), has partnered with construction firm Webcor to test building energy performance. The testing will allow Webcor’s engineers to predict and improve the energy performance for a new building constructed for biotech company, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group. A building mockup for Genentech will be studied at different building orientations, specific to the actual construction site.

The research will take place in FLEXLAB’s rotating testbed, a unit that rotates 270 degrees to allow the study of building energy use and environmental parameters change in a variety of orientations relative to the sun. FLEXLAB’s newly completed outdoor facility consists of four testbeds, consisting of two cells each, that can be outfitted in almost any combination of building envelope materials, windows and shade structures, lights, heating and cooling equipment, and controls to test new technology in real conditions. Two other testbeds, one for lighting and controls testing, and one for collaborative building design have opened in an existing building at Berkeley Lab.

EERE's David Danielson talks to the crowd gathered outside of FLEXLAB

EERE's David Danielson talks to the crowd gathered outside of FLEXLAB

Berkeley Lab and Webcor will build a section of the building in the rotating testbed, collect data, and use these measurements to develop an accurate energy simulation model of the building.  This practice allows the design team to better understand and predict the actual performance of the building, both for energy and comfort. The lab is the only facility in the U.S. that provides side-by-side, outdoor testing of fully integrated building systems (envelope, lighting, HVAC) in a fully reconfigurable space.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, was on hand in Berkeley to tour the facility, meet with Webcor executives, Lab Director Paul Alivisatos and Berkeley Lab researchers, and view the start of the installation.

“The Energy Department’s FLEXLAB is an exciting contribution that will help industry test comfortable, low-energy-use buildings technologies,” said Danielson. “By advancing technologies that reduce our energy use in built environments, this project also brings us closer to meeting the ambitious goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan and keeps America on the path to a clean energy future.”

“We have to agree with other experts that this building, this facility, could be the most important building in the country. The DOE, Berkeley Lab and its team have handed us a uniquely powerful tool and now it is the architecture and engineering community’s opportunity to put it to use,” says Phil Williams, Webcor’s Vice President for Building Systems and Sustainability.

EETD's Mary Ann Piette (left) describes FLEXLAB's capabilities to EERE's David Danielson (center).

EETD's Mary Ann Piette (left) describes FLEXLAB's capabilities to EERE's David Danielson (center).

Webcor will ensure that the building operates according to specification when construction is finished. Operations and maintenance staff, and occupants will provide input on the design early on, understanding how the integrated systems will work in operation. They will provide input on operations as well as functionality and comfort. This allows the team to identify potential performance and cost issues early on and address them, lowering the risk of delivered performance and the potential for costly change orders during the construction process.

“FLEXLAB will bring industry, DOE national lab scientists, manufacturers and investors together all working hand in hand on cutting-edge energy efficiency technologies and solutions,” says Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos. “These partners can use the results from their FLEXLAB demonstrations to help encourage design, construction and operation of high-performance buildings.”

The Molecular Foundry's Delia Milliron (left) and Ron Zuckerman (rt.), along with Lab Director Alivisatos, join EERE's David Danielson.

The Molecular Foundry's Delia Milliron (left) and Ron Zuckermann (rt.), along with Lab Director Alivisatos, join EERE's David Danielson.

Mocking up and testing advanced designs will allow the buildings industry to build a case for new advanced technology, and scale up the opportunities for construction and operations cost reduction. Ultimately, this benefits consumers, by leading to better designed and operated, more comfortable buildings with lower energy costs.

As part of his visit to Berkeley Lab, Danielson also toured the Molecular Foundry.

For more information about FLEXLAB, see

# # #

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit