As Hearst Avenue nears the northeastern, uphill corner of the U/C-Berkeley campus, the street abruptly breaks with the urban grid and launches a steep, switchback ascent of the semi-wild Blackberry Canyon. Hearst gives way to Cyclotron as the road enters the well-guarded precincts of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), one of the spawning grounds of "Big Science." Ascending to one of the high points of the LBL campus, the road arrives in front of Building 90, with a breathtaking panoramic view that encompasses all of San Francisco, both bridges, the Marin Headlands, and more to the north and south. Here, in the Building Technologies Department of the Labs' Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD), you are at the epicenter of building energy research and much of the simulation, interoperability, and virtual building software development that goes with it.
EETD is just one among nineteen divisions of LBL (the others range from Accelerator & Fusion Research to Technology Transfer). Within EETD, there are three Councils, three Offices, and five Departments: Advanced Technologies; Air Quality; Building Technologies; Energy Analysis; and Indoor Environments. On an unseasonably warm late-June day in the Bay Area, my focus is the Building Technologies Department, which is further subdivided into four Groups—Windows & Daylighting, Lighting Systems, Simulation Research, and Commercial Building Systems—and one Applications Team that is matrixed across EETD. Other than the Simulation Research Group, best known for its work on the DOE-2 and EnergyPlus building energy analysis/simulation programs, LaiserinLetter readers will be most familiar with the work of the Commercial Building Systems Group, especially in the areas of Life-Cycle Tools and user-friendly front-ends to some of the Labs' more complex software.
Department Head, Steve Selkowitz, explains that the Department's ultimate goal of bringing about more efficient use of buiding energy can be approached via several avenues. One involves devices and technologies that modify a building's or component's response to environmental conditions or occupant behavior. These technologies include occupancy sensors that turn lights on and off as people enter or leave offices. Another example is the prototype electrochromic window that frames the magnificent Bay view behind Selkowitz's desk: the glazing tint can be lightened or darkened at the touch of a switch.
The Department also has begun to move from the building design and building component areas into building operations as well. Specifically, says Selkowitz, this involves software that:
> monitors and archives building performance
> has built-in diagnostics
> has built-in emulation for "what if" analyses
> supports intranet-based controls (centralized control, but distibuted information)
> can adapt to dynamic (real-time) energy pricing
One of the biggest challenges facing the Department is persuading various constituencies of the merits of a systems/software scenario for building energy solutions versus a product scenario. While the Department's building control systems work is relatively new, it is a well-established presence in certain software areas. For example, Staff Scientist Konstantinos Papamichael's projects include: Desktop Radiance, a user-friendly, Windows-based front-end to the Labs' complex, Unix-based lighting analysis system, Radiance; and Building Design Advisor, a Windows-based program for studying the interaction between schematic building designs and analytic tools for energy and lighting.
Among the Department's most visible presences and influences in the AEC industry are its efforts on Life-Cycle tools, especially in the areas of interoperability and virtual building. Staff Scientist Vladimir Bazjanac observes that much of the original impetus for LBL's initial involvement in the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI) was to help create a "market" (in the sense of public usage/demand) for LBL's in-house relation/simulation engines (such as DOE-2). Meaningful analysis of whole-building energy performance requires intelligent building models capable of containing and transporting all the data necessary to describe building geometry, components, and attributes.
Many constituencies among designers, constructors, building owners, building product manufacturers, building information providers, and design/analysis software vendors have their own overlapping but slightly divergent interests in IAI and its modeling processes. Keeping everyone on the same page over the seven years since the IAI's inception has presented a series of challenges. Recently, IAI became a Council under the National Institute of Building Sciences. LBL's Selkowitz remains Vice-Chair of the IAI-North America Board of Directors, with Bazjanac continuing to chair the Technical Advisory Committee (originally founded as the Research Advisory Committee).
LBL also is involved in the BLIS Project (Building Lifecycle Interoperable Software), "...conceived as a way to initiate the next logical phase in the widespread adoption of an object data model standard for the AEC/FM industry." Essentially, BLIS involves 60-70 participating organizations (that also belong to IAI) developing and testing practical implementations of the IAI Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) version 2.0 as a medium of exchange among diverse commercial software tools for design and analysis.
Most recently, LBL—along with Stanford University's Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE), Finland's National Technology Agency, TEKES; and VTT, one of the largest technical research institutes in Europe—launched a global Virtual Building Environments (VBE) initiative, on which I previously reported (Real Profits Through Virtual Building, IssueFive—July 1, 2002). Bazjanac, CIFE's Martin Fischer, and TEKES' Ari Ahonen are coordinating the organizational structure and initial funding of the VBE effort.
Planned as a ten-year project, the VBE initiative offers the exciting prospect of closing an information loop: virtual building tools will simulate actual buildings and their construction; intelligent building systems will monitor and archive building performance and feed the results back to the simulation tools; the tools will grow more refined by operating on better empirical data; the next generation tools—and the buildings we design with them—will thereby become better, smarter, and more efficient than the last.