Sustainability Overview

Sustainability Overview

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Pushing the Boundaries of Energy Efficient Design

As one of the greenest buildings in the country, the new facility is designed to achieve LEED-Platinum certification and a net-zero energy footprint. Two arrays, comprising 26,124 SF of photovoltaic surface across 1,488 Sunpower E20 / 327 panels, were designed to meet building demand over the timeframe of a year—the first biological laboratory in the world to do so.

Building occupants are responsible for reducing plug loads by 31% to achieve net-zero target. In terms of light energy, sensors detect when artificial lighting is required, but variable brightness settings ensure that no more lighting is provided than required.

Instead of using air-cooling, the laboratory freezers use a more efficient water-cooled system that consumes less energy. Induction diffusers (active chilled beams) deliver minimum air change rates to meet Environmental Health & Safety requirements for laboratories and offices, but they also have a heating / cooling coil that delivers either hot water or cool water to heat or cool the building, eliminating any re-heating of the air supply.

Virtually all site rainwater and air handler condensate is collected into three interconnected cisterns, and then UV-filtered and recycled for non-potable water functions within the building, which is expected to reduce the building’s domestic water demand by 70 percent. Native low-water landscaping and terrace gardens help collect rainwater and keep the building naturally cooler.

typical laboratory

Typical laboratory

The first step was to establish the typical laboratory energy demand, and then determine the energy budget based on the area for the photovoltaic array.



Initial reduction in energy use was achieved by architectural solutions (sunshades, building orientation, etc.).

MEP systems

MEP Systems

Additional energy savings were achieved through improvements to HVAC and lighting systems.

plug loads

Plug Loads

By changing the culture of research (laptops, water-chilled freezers, green plugs) and measuring usage in existing JCVI laboratories, a 73 percent overall reduction from the baseline was achieved.


HVAC Systems


Thermal Storage Tank Charging

1 The cooling tower (open loop system) generates cool water at night, which is supplied to the heat exchanger. 2 Heat from the building is carried back to the cooling tower through the heat exchanger. 3 Cool water (closed loop system) from the heat exchanger is used to charge the thermal storage tanks. 4 If tank temperature is not satisfied in the early morning (typically, only during hot summer periods), chiller can be used to charge the thermal storage tanks. 5 Heat from chiller operation is carried back to the cooling tower.

Thermal Storage Tank Discharging

6 During the day, cool water is drawn off the cool side of the thermal storage tanks for use in cooling the building by supplying the air handlers and induction diffusers. 7 Heat removed from the building is returned to the warm side of the thermal storage tanks.

This allows for cooling of the building during the winter months and most of the shoulder months of the year with minimal operation of the chiller.

cooling system


1 Warm water from the thermal energy storage tank goes to the heat pump to provide heating. 2 Heated hot water goes to the air handling units and the induction diffusers and provides a heat source for domestic and industrial water systems. 3 Cold water by-product from the heat pump goes back to the cold side of the thermal energy storage tank. 4 Cold water by-product from the induction diffusers and the air handling units go back to the heat pump to be reheated.

heating system

Variable Laboratory Air Changes

Reducing energy is only one feature of the JCVI mechanical system. Through the use of induction diffusers and an air monitoring system, laboratories are provided with 4 to 6 air changes when spaces are occupied, with the capacity to “ramp up” individual laboratories in the event of a spill. The minimum is 2 air changes for unoccupied times. In addition to energy savings and laboratory safety, the laboratories are quieter and more comfortable for the occupants than traditional laboratory HVAC systems.

variable laboratory air changes

Building Intelligence

The building systems were tied together through a unique intelligent building interface. With this the operations team can troubleshoot and optimize the building with a single user-friendly interface.

building intelligence

Water Conservation

A complex water-balancing model was developed to understand the quantities, frequency, and demand times of water use. The result is a system that uses rain and recycled water, when available, for everything except potable water uses. Plans for a greywater connection to the building (purple pipe) have also been established to allow for use of reclaimed water in the future.

water conservation