Whole Building Performance Targets Drive Deep Efficiency and Low Climate Impact in a New Genomics Laboratory Design

John Elliott, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Joseph Wenisch, Integral Group

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Integral Group will present the design of a new 80,880 square foot genomics laboratory that is under construction at the Berkeley Lab site. The new building is designed to use just 28% of the energy used by the future tenants in their current facility. This performance was achieved by setting clear targets and challenging the design team to begin early in the design process to find cost-effective strategies that enable high performance. The design features very low modeled energy use (92 kBTU/square foot per year), careful orientation and passive design strategies, radiant and chilled beam space conditioning, all electric heating systems with both airside and waterside heat recovery, maximized open roof space designed for solar photovolatic generation, a separate modular and medium temperature chilled water plant designed to expand for future buildings, LEED gold certification, and many additional energy- and water-saving features. The all-electric design will ensure that the climate footprint of the laboratory will shrink over time as the electricity grid is decarbonized. The energy performance of the building design was driven by a high-level set of sustainability standards for new construction, communicated prior to selection of the design team. A key element of the approach was setting targets (with stretch goals) for whole building energy-performance that were confirmed during design through modeling, and will be carried through to guide operations. The modeling estimated future occupied whole-building energy use, rather than code-driven outputs. The design was informed by a plug-load survey of the existing facility that will be replaced by the new building and an assessment of ventilation effectiveness of the new design. Information about planned chemical use and the ventilation effectiveness were used to identify options for safely operating the building at rates as low as four air changes per hour in occupied conditions. The design team also prioritized coordination to ensure that building performance metrics that will be used on operation for monitoring-based commissioning were fully defined in the project plans and specifications.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand approaches to encourage integrated design and deliver exemplary energy performance at reasonable cost.
  • Understand particular technologies and techniques to achieve very low energy use in laboratories.
  • Understand opportunities to eliminate natural gas use for space conditioning and water heating in laboratories.
  • Understand approaches to maximize solar photovoltaic generation for new laboratory facilities.


John Elliott is Chief Sustainability Officer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, responsible for directing and implementing the Lab's sustainability strategy. He has broad and detailed experience in building efficiency, building energy management, renewables, water efficiency, electric vehicles, employee engagement and waste diversion. He was previously Director, Energy and Sustainability at UC Merced.

Joseph Wenisch is a Principal and Mechanical Engineer at Integral Group with over 15 years of building energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering experience. He has managed 5 LEED Platinum projects while at Integral Group including the Exploratorium, a 200,000 SF net zero energy children's science museum on the San Francisco waterfront. He has a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and a M.Sc. in from the Building Systems Engineering Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.


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