US Department of Energy honors UC Berkeley, tours Jacobs Hall

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Heather Feibleman/Staff

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge recognized UC Berkeley for leading in energy efficiency, with representatives touring the notably sustainable Jacobs Hall on Tuesday.

Jacobs Hall, which houses the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, opened August 2015. Winner of this year’s California Higher Education Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Best Practice Award, the building has achieved an energy saving of 65 percent, or $41,000.

The Better Buildings Challenge, an initiative created in 2011 by President Barack Obama, requires committed partners to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. UC Berkeley joined the initiative this year, though the campus has already implemented the Energy Management Initiative that has saved more than $6.5 million in the past three years.

“Leadership of UC Berkeley for this particular project is very important,” said DOE Commercial Buildings Integration Program Manager Jason Hartke, who took a tour of Jacobs Hall. “We believe that leadership begets more leadership.”

Jacobs Hall is expected to receive a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating in about a month, according to College of Engineering Assistant Dean of Facilities and Capital Projects Scott Shackleton. He added that the building would be the first platinum-rated building on the UC Berkeley campus.

The building relies on natural daylight from various windows, many of which can be opened to allow for natural air ventilation throughout the building. Heating and cooling processes are efficient and bathroom fixtures have ultra-low flow features.

In addition, an average of 60 percent of the building’s energy is provided by solar energy. Solar panels line the roof and hang from the upper perimeter of the building. The perimeter panels are bifacial, gathering sunlight from the sky and reflected from the ground, according to Jon Christensen, senior commercial sales manager of Sungevity, which provided the solar panel system.

The Energy Management Initiative, which began in 2009, aims to permanently reduce the amount of energy used on campus, while informing staff and students of their energy usage. The initiative, among other programs, has implemented an incentives system for the past three years — initially giving payments to campus departments that go under the baseline use and imposing penalties on colleges that have gone over in the past two years. The initiative began phasing out incentives in fiscal year 2015.

“Power is one of the great commodities,” Christensen said. “The cost of solar is competitive … 10 years ago it cost (four or) five times as much.”

The Energy Management Initiative works in tandem with another environmental sustainability effort, the campus Zero Waste by 2020 Initiative, which aims to reduce campus waste by 90 percent by 2020.

“You’re saving energy, saving money and you’re making a smarter building,” Hartke said.

Contact Edward Booth at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.

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