The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) new office building in Golden, Colorado shows clearly how nature, technology and human behavior interact to drive energy use in buildings. (Here’s a recent article in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/science/15building.html) It’s a great example of a useful federal investment. The building combines effective design, deployment of appropriate technology and minute by minute information feedback in an attempt to achieve “zero net energy”. Lab operations manager Jeffrey Baker says that the building is a “living laboratory.”
If you have the interest and little bit of enthusiasm, any building can serve as a laboratory. Few of us own or work in buildings like NREL’s office but we can all study and understand the physical features, energy systems and information technology already in place: you can improve energy performance by 5 to 10 percent — or more — while serving users safely and effectively.
As we learn more about how buildings familiar to use use energy and what it takes to improve energy performance, what we learn can push all of us to invest and demand buildings like the NREL office.