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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

Research Support Facility in Golden, Colorado by RNL Design

July 1st, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal

Article source: RNL Design

The Research Support Facility (RSF) is a very significant building for DOE and NREL. It is a showcase of how high-performance buildings can be aesthetically compelling, acquired at a competitive first-cost and lifecycle cost, and through integrated design, how high-performance buildings can reduce performance risks to the Owner and constructor. Not only is the RSF designed to meet the LEED Platinum rating as defined by the US Green Buildings Council, it is slated to be the first Zero Energy Building (ZEB) of its kind. The building is a showcase of sustainable high-performance design. It demonstrates the integration of high performance design features and practices, showcases technology advances, and captures the public’s imagination for renewable and energy efficient technologies.

Research Support Facility (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

  • Architects: RNL Design
  • Project: U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Research Support Facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • Location: Golden, Colorado
  • Gross area: 222,000 SF
  • Date completed: June 2010

Exterior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

  • Interior designer: RNL
  • Client/Owner: U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • Mechanical engineer: Stantec Consulting
  • Structural engineer: KL&A Engineering, Golden Office
  • Electrical engineer: Stantec Consulting
  • Photography: © Frank Ooms

Exterior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

  • Civil engineer: Martin / Martin, Inc.
  • Geotechnical engineer: Ground Engineering Consultants
  • Owners Representative: Northstar Project Management provided owners rep services to the client
  • General contractor: Haselden Construction, LLC
  • Landscape architect: RNL
  • Lighting designer: RNL

Exterior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

This world class office facility is occupied by 820 National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Department of Energy Golden Field Office (DOE) staff. In addition to open office, semi-private and some private offices, the facility includes a library, employee lunch room and lobby, as well as conference and support spaces.

Research Support Facility (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Features

The RSF building showcases numerous high-performance design features, passive energy strategies, and renewable energy technologies. It is a prototype for the future of large-scale ultra-efficient buildings.

Street View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

1. Building orientation: The relatively narrow floor plate (60′ wide) enables daylighting and natural ventilation for all occupants. Building orientation and geometry minimizes east and west glazing. North and south glazing is optimally sized and shaded to provide daylighting while minimizing unwanted heat losses and gains.

2. Labyrinth thermal storage: A labyrinth of massive concrete structures is in the RSF crawl space. The labyrinth stores thermal energy and provides additional capacity for passive heating of the building.

Interior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

3. Transpired solar collectors: Outside ventilation air is passively preheated via a transpired solar collector (a technology developed by NREL) on the building’s south-facing wall before delivery to the labyrinth and occupied space.

4. Daylighting: 100 percent of the workstations are daylit. Daylight enters the upper portions of the south-facing windows and is reflected to the ceiling and deep into the space with light-reflecting devices.

Interior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

5. Triple glazed, operable windows with individual sunshades: Aggressive window shading is designed to address different orientations and positions of glazed openings. Occupants can open some windows to bring in fresh air and cool the building naturally.

6. Precast concrete insulated panels: A thermally massive exterior wall assembly using an insulated precast concrete panel system provides significant thermal mass to moderate the building’s internal temperature.

Office (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

7. Radiant heating and cooling: Approximately 42 miles of radiant piping runs through all floors of the building, using water as the cooling and heating medium in the majority of workspaces—instead of forced air.

8. Underfloor ventilation: A demand-controlled dedicated outside air system provides fresh air from a raised floor when building windows are closed on the hottest and coolest days. Ventilation is distributed through an underfloor air distribution system. Evaporative cooling and energy recovery systems further reduce outdoor air heating and cooling loads.

Interior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

9. Energy efficient data center and workstations: A fully contained hot and cold aisle datacenter configuration allows for effective air-side economizer cooling with evaporative boost when needed while capturing waste heat for use in the building. Plug loads are mini­mized with extensive use of laptops and high-efficiency office equipment.

10. On-site solar energy system: Approximately 1.6 MW of on-site photovoltaics (PV) will be installed and dedicated to the RSF. Rooftop PV power will be added through a Power Purchase Agreement, and PV power from adjacent parking areas will be purchased with 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

Windows (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)


Materials used in the RSF contain recycled content, rapidly renewable products, or were regional, meaning they were procured within a 500-mile radius of Golden. Examples include:
• Wood from pine trees killed by beetles used for the lobby entry;
• Recycled runway materials from Denver’s closed Stapleton Airport used for aggregate in foundations and slabs; and
• Reclaimed steel gas piping used as structural columns.

About 75 percent of construction waste materials have been diverted from landfills.

Research Support Facility (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

Workplace of the Future

The RSF provides employees with a new type of office space—one that is open and encourages interaction and collaboration. Low profile, modular work stations allow daylight and views for all occupants. Workstations are located within 30 feet of the near­est window, and employees are able to open windows when conditions permit, allowing for natural ventila­tion and improved indoor air quality. Highly efficient computer laptops, monitors, and all-in-one print/fax/ scan devices contribute to lower energy use.

Exterior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

Design-Build Approach

To meet stringent time and performance goals—while mitigating costs and risks—the RSF project team developed an innovative approach that relied on an integrated design and construction approach, extensive up-front planning, a national design com­petition, energy modeling, and a firm fixed-price contract. DOE and NREL invited nearly a dozen design-build teams to submit proposals. Three teams were short-listed to develop concept designs and submit proposals. The Haselden Construction and RNL team won the design-build competition and began work in July 2008.

Interior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

RNL Professional Services: Program Verification, Site Master Planning, Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture

Interior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

Interior View (Image Courtesy Frank Ooms)

Contact RNL Design

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Categories: Building, Offices

One Response to “Research Support Facility in Golden, Colorado by RNL Design”

  1. Weep Holes says:

    Simply stunning modern designs built for the 21st century. It is good to see stunning designs coming from americans rather than the dutch.

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