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Berkeley Lab to Build Tropical Test Bed

Thursday, December 3, 2015

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A Singapore rooftop is being transformed into a lab for building materials so that researchers can learn more about how to design greener buildings in the tropics.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA, has partnered with Singapore’s Building Construction Authority (BCA) to build a 4.5 million Singapore dollar (US$3.17 million) rotating lab to study real-world design techniques in a part of the world that is dependent on HVAC systems.

“If we want to take green building for the tropics to the next level, we’ve got to look for innovative solutions,” BCA CEO John Keung told Architect magazine.

Keung says research and development, demonstration projects, facade design and new building technologies are needed to help the industry advance in the climate.

Up on the Roof

Called the SkyLab, the 132-square-meter (1,421-square-feet) test facility will serve as a sister site to Berkeley’s Facility in Low Energy Experiments in Buildings (FLEXLab) in California, according to the magazine. The L-shaped lab will sit on a 16-meter-diameter (52.5-foot-diameter) rotating platform and have both 6- and 10-story towers.

Photos: Bulding Construction Authority

The SkyLab will be built on a rotating platform on the roof of a building in Singapore. Researchers will use it to study building technologies and green design in the tropics.

A viewing room will be made of cross-laminated timber, and the 40-meters-square (430.5-feet-square) lab will simulate an office environment to test plug-and-play applications, including façades, cooling, lighting and smart controls, Architect noted.

“[Berkeley Lab] and FLEXLab can represent and test under the climate zones for all the continental U.S. but we are latitude-constrained: We can’t move north or south,” Cindy Regnier, FLEXLab executive manager told the magazine.

“The rotating test bed is unique in that we can simulate a little bit of that but not to the same degree. We can’t change the outdoor environment,” Regnier continued. “So what we have here is a great partnership between studies that are related to the U.S. climates and then the hot, tropical, humid climate at a different latitude, which is much more challenging.”

Tropical Urbanization

The magazine reported that the new lab in southern Asia is located in a region that is urbanizing exponentially.

By 2050, 64 percent of Asia will be urbanized and Africa—which also will benefit from building materials tested in the tropics—will urbanize by 56 percent, according to a 2014 report from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

A viewing room will simulate an office environment to test a variety of building applications including façades, cooling, lighting and smart controls.

Singapore has been a model of green building for the past decade. It established its Green Mark certification program based on the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program in 2005. Architect noted that the country boasts passively cooled, older homes in the tropics.

Its government-led certification program seeks to find new solutions that will help builders choose site orientation, use more efficient HVAC systems and make use of natural light, the magazine reported.

The BCA is working with the United National Environment Programme’s Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) program to share findings from its Green Mark studies, the magazine said.

Construction on the lab is expected to begin during the first half of 2016.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building Envelope; Building science; Government; Green building; Green design; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; LEED; North America

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