Issue 1 - May 2006

Image of the High Tech Newsletter masthead

Welcome to the inaugural issue of High Tech News, a periodic e-newsletter describing the latest research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) on high-performance buildings for high-tech industries. The newsletter focuses primarily on raising the energy performance of critical facilities such as data centers, cleanrooms, and laboratories. To subscribe or unsubscribe, send email here.

General Interest

The Business Case for Energy Management in High-Tech Industries

Image of a data centerIn the race to apply new technologies in “high-tech” facilities such as data centers, laboratories, and cleanrooms, much emphasis has been placed on improving service, building capacity, and increasing speed. These facilities are socially and economically important, as part of the critical infrastructure for pharmaceuticals, electronics, communications, and many other sectors. With a singular focus on throughput, some important design issues can be overlooked, such as the energy efficiency of individual equipment (e.g., lasers, routers and switches) as well as the efficient integration of high-tech equipment into the power distribution system and the building envelope. Among technology-based businesses, improving energy efficiency presents an often untapped opportunity to increase profits, enhance process control, maximize asset value, improve the workplace environment, and manage a variety of business risks. Oddly enough, the adoption of energy efficiency improvements in this sector lags behind many others. As a result, millions of dollars are left on the table with each year of operation. Working with colleagues from AT&T, Genentech, SEMATECH, and Critical Facility associates, we have prepared a new White Paper to help financial officers and executives in high-tech industries understand the value of energy management. The report was also summarized in a recent issue of Forbes. [contact: Evan Mills]


Data Centers

Conference Report: Servers and Data Centers

Image of a data centerLBNL cosponsored the recent conference on Enterprise Servers and Data Centers: Opportunities for Energy Savings, held on the California campuses of Sun Microsystems and AMD.

On Day 1, industry leaders and energy efficiency experts opened the meeting by discussing trends and challenges in the marketplace. A panel of end users emphasized their desire for improved efficiencies in data centers. The second half of the day focused on identifying roadblocks to efficiency and working toward solutions with the help of relevant case studies and small group working sessions.

Day 2 focused on the Challenges in Building Operations and Management for Owners/Operators of Service Providers and Enterprise Data Centers and the Development of the ENERGY STAR Building Benchmark for Mission Critical Facilities. Industry experts opened the session by discussing the relationship between energy efficiency and data center reliability as well examining the potential for improved energy performance in data centers. Both current and future technologies were addressed in the discussions. During the late morning session, ENERGY STAR program managers led a group discussion on the continuing development of energy performance rating tools for data centers, financial service centers, and telecom facilities.

Proceedings from the meeting, including video and sound clips, can be found here. [Contact: Bill Tschudi]


Measuring and Managing Energy Use in Data Centers

With annual energy costs per square foot 10- to 30-times those of typical office buildings, data centers are an important target in energy-saving efforts. They operate continuously, which means their electricity demand always is contributing to peak utility system demand, an important fact given that utility pricing increasingly reflects time-dependent tariffs. Energy-efficiency best practices can hold the key to significant savings, while improving reliability and yielding other non-energy benefits. We recently reported our findings in HPAC Engineering, including summaries of best practices developed from an extensive study of energy use in 22 data centers.  The article can be found here. [Contact: Bill Tschudi]



Measuring and Managing Energy Use in Laboratories

Labs21 developed a web-based database tool to collect, analyze, and display energy benchmarking data for laboratories. The tool allows a user to input laboratory characteristics and energy use data via conventional web-forms. The data remain anonymous to other users of the database. In order to perform data analysis, the user specifies a metric of interest, and can set criteria to filter the data set by lab-area ratio, end-uses, occupancy hours, and climate zone.  The tool then presents the data analysis in graphical and tabular format. The benchmarking can be done for whole-building metrics (e.g. site BTU/sf/yr) as well as system level metrics (e.g. ventilation watts/cfm). The database currently has data on over 70 public and private sector laboratory facilities, mostly chemical and biological laboratories. Some illustrative findings from the tool:

• The total site energy use intensity varies from about 200,000 BTU/sf-yr to almost 800,000 BTU/sf-yr. For comparison, the average office building site energy use intensity in the U.S. is about 90,000 BTU/sf-yr.

• Of particular interest is the relationship between the actual measured total peak electrical loads and estimated peak plug loads assumed during design. None of the facilities have total peak electrical loads more than 15 W/sf. Yet, it is common for designers to assume plug loads alone at 10-12 W/sf or more.

• Ventilation system efficiency varies widely from 0.3 W/cfm to almost 2.0 W/cfm. This metric is fairly independent of operating parameters such as weather and is largely driven by air handler efficiency and pressure drop. Therefore, a high value for this metric almost always indicates an opportunity to reduce energy use through efficient fans, motors, and low-pressure drop design features.

[Contact: Paul Mathew]

Image of the Input data used in the Labs21 website Image of the output data used in the Labs21 website

Labs21 benchmarking database website: Data input form (left), data output (right)


News From the Hood

Image of a cleanroom

This department continues the tradition of LBNL’s News From the Hood Newsletter—covering the latest work on the energy efficient Berkeley Fume Hood for laboratory-type facilities—which we are now merging with High-Tech News.  Back issues of NFTH can be found here.

Fume hoods exhaust large volumes of air at great expense. The energy to filter, move, cool, heat or reheat, and in some cases scrub (clean) this air is one of the largest loads in most lab facilities. Fume hoods frequently operate 24 hours/day. Since many laboratories have multiple hoods, they often dictate a lab’s required airflow and thus the supply and exhaust systems’ capacity. The result is larger fans, chillers, boilers, and ducts compared to systems having less exhaust. Consequently, fume hoods are a major factor in making a typical laboratory four- to five-times more energy intensive than a typical commercial space.
[Contact: Geoffrey Bell]


Human-As-Mannequin Results Garners Strong Industry Interest and Use

LBNL has developed a standardized dynamic “human-as-mannequin” (HAM) test protocol for laboratory fume hoods. This emulates real-world conditions with human movements that help test the hood’s ability to contain pollutants within the hood.

Independent HAM tests (funded by the California Energy Commission’s PIER program) summarized in the chart show that the Berkeley Hood performs as well as a conventional hood, and well below the threshold for containment safety. The tests were conducted side-by-side on hoods built by the same manufacturer, in the same room, at the same time.

The test facility, constructed at LBNL, consists of two side-by-side six-foot hoods (one conventional hood operating at approximately 100 fpm face velocity, and one “Berkeley Hood” operating at approximately half the exhaust flow rate).  For purposes of equivalency it was agreed (as stated in the protocol) that under HAM testing the Berkeley hood was to contain contaminants equal or better than the conventional hood, or no higher than 0.10 ppm SF6 (the ANSI/AIHA Z9.5 as-installed static test threshold).  Both hoods were tested and passed the standard static tracer gas test thus assuring that the “bar,” based on a conventional hood, was high (higher than many hoods only meeting the Cal/OSHA face velocity requirement). [Contact: Geoffrey Bell]

Both the Berkeley Hood and the conventional hood performed very well, showing that the Berkeley Hood, with its superior design offers equal worker protection even with half the air volume.

The formal HAM test results are an average of nine tests for each hood (three sets of left, center, and right position tests).  Note that despite the dynamic nature of the tests, the average leakage rate was substantially below the ANSI/AHIA as-installed (AI) threshold.  Leakage as high as 0.10 ppm would be considered good (as that is the allowable AI leakage under a static test).  In fact, not only did the hoods perform well on average, but none of the nine individual tests exceeded the threshold.

The University of California has subsequently used the HAM protocol to test 25 conventional hoods and found that most had containment problems with the sash fully open.  The one exception was the Berkeley Hood.  All hoods performed well at below the CAL-OSHA requirement of 100 feet per minute face velocity.


CAL-OSHA Grants Variance for Berkeley Hood Demonstrations

There is a general industry standard for fume hoods to operate with a face velocity of 100 feet per minute. This is an easy standard to design for and measure, but it does not assure containment or safety. Cal/OSHA adopted this standard in the 1970s, giving it the force of law (which is not the case in other states).

In other parts of the country, hoods have been operated safely at much lower velocities (e.g. 60 feet per minute at Dupont). In any case, many conventional hoods fail to achieve containment at 100 feet per minute or greater.  Experts now realize there is little or no correlation between face velocity and containment. Hood design, installation, and operation have more to do with containment than face velocity.

As verified in our Human-as-Mannequin tests (see previous article), LBNL’s “Berkeley Hood” achieves containment at much lower face velocities, promising energy savings up to 75%.  The CAL-OSHA standards have stood as a barrier to innovation and commercialization of new hood technologies.  LBNL submitted an application for a variance in April 2002. Cal-OSHA witnessed various tests and—four years later—approved a variance thereby allowing field tests to go forward. [Contact: Dale Sartor]

Berkeley Hood Industry Partners

  • Labconco – built Berkeley Hood for static test at San Diego State University
  • Genie Scientific – provided hood components for 6-foot Berkeley Hood
  • Jamestown Metal – provided hoods for side-by-side HAM testing
  • TekAir – provided controls for BH for use in demos
  • Exposure Control Technologies – independent testing of Berkeley Hood perform
  • Indoor Air Professionals – tested Berkeley Hood at UC campuses


Fume Hood Calculator Garners New Users

Screen shot of the Laboratory Fume Hood Energy Calculator web site

Our web-based fume-hood energy calculator can be used to test the energy and cost impacts of improving component efficiencies (e.g. fans or space conditioning equipment), modifying face velocities or varying energy prices.  Supply air set points can be varied, as can the type of reheat energy.  Several hundred weather locations around the world are available.  The calculator allows for an instantaneous comparison of two scenarios Pfizer – with five linear miles of fume hoods in its labs – has begun using the calculator to evaluate in-house energy use and savings opportunities.  Phoenix Controls, a major provider of hood controls, is using the calculator to help market its products.  Account managers at Pacific Gas and Electric Company are using the calculator as a means of providing technical support on energy management to its high-tech customers. [Contact: Evan Mills]



Measuring and Managing Energy Use in Cleanrooms

Combining high air-recirculation rates and energy-intensive processes, cleanrooms are 20- to 100-times as costly to operate on a per-square-foot basis as conventional commercial buildings. Additionally, they operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week, which means their electricity demand always is always contributing to peak utility system demand, an important fact given increasing reliance on time-dependent tariffs. We recently reported our findings in HPAC Engineering, including summaries of best practices developed from an extensive study of energy use in 28 cleanrooms.  The article can be found here. [Contact: Bill Tschudi]

Image of chart illustrating types of recirculation systems and their efficiency


Small is Beautiful: Minienvironment Field Test Results

Image of minienvironment roomImage of chart illustrating preliminary minienvironment test results

Cleanrooms have extraordinarily high rates of energy use in part because they are traditionally configured to maintain ultra-clean conditions over very large areas.  However, sensitive processes requiring high cleanliness levels are only carried out in relatively small areas within the larger cleanroom.  “Minienvironment” technologies—essentially a cleanroom within a cleanroom—can be used to isolate these sensitive processes, thereby reducing the risk of contamination. LBNL field tests have shown that—if cleanliness conditions are appropriately relaxed in the main cleanroom through the use of minienvironments--significant energy savings can also result.  In addition, we found that the efficiency of minienvironments varies widely, depending largely on the quality of the fan filter unit used to provide filtered air to the minienvironment.  Simply installing a minienvironment does not guaranty energy savings. Go here for more on LBNL’s minienvironment research. [Contact: Bill Tschudi]


Recent Publications

For a full list of publications, see here:



PIER logo Lab 21 logo CIEE logo   NYSERDA logo

The publication of research results within the newsletter does not constitute an endorsement of any particular entity, product, manufacturer, consultant, etc. by LBNL or its sponsors.