Art Rosenfeld, campus professor and pioneer of energy efficiency, dies at 90

Art Rosenfeld, a Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Distinguished Scientist Emeritus and campus professor emeritus of physics, died in his Berkeley home of a pneumonia-related illness Friday. He was 90 years old.

Widely regarded for his work in energy efficiency, Rosenfeld and his team at UC Berkeley helmed efforts to save energy by influencing public policies and creating new technology.

“His mark on the culture of energy and energy policy work — not only in Berkeley, but throughout the nation and the globe, even — cannot be erased,” said Duncan Callaway, campus associate professor of energy and resources.

After first arriving to Berkeley in the 1950s, Rosenfeld became a senior staff member at Berkeley Lab in 1955 and a physics professor at UC Berkeley two years later.

Rosenfeld founded the Center for Building Science at the Berkeley Lab in 1975, where he and his colleagues developed energy efficiency codes required for all new buildings in California.

Rosenfeld’s daughter, Dr. Margaret Rosenfeld, cited modern appliance standards, compact fluorescent light bulbs and low-emissivity windows as some of her father’s greatest innovations that saved the nation billions of dollars in energy expenditures.

This trend in Californian energy efficiency was coined the “Rosenfeld Effect,” which describes how the state’s per capita energy consumption stagnated over the last 40 years while the rest of America’s usage grew considerably.

“Art Rosenfeld helped make California the world leader in energy efficiency,” said Gov. Jerry Brown in a statement. “His path-breaking ideas transformed our energy sector from one of massive waste to increasingly elegant efficiency.”

Among the numerous accolades Rosenfeld received in his lifetime was the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Margaret said witnessing former president Barack Obama award her father with the medal was one of her favorite memories of him.

In addition to Rosenfeld’s work as a scientist, Margaret fondly recalled his love and generosity as a father. Rosenfeld often played games with her and her sister, Dr. Anne Hansen.

According to Margaret, Rosenfeld also imparted many lessons onto them that emphasized education and encouraged them to leave the world a better place than when they entered it. She said her father was the reason she became a scientist, researching chronic lung diseases in young children with cystic fibrosis.

“He’s just had a profound influence on the Berkeley community in many ways,” Margaret said. “He just had all these kinds of scientific progeny — people he trained and mentored who went on to mentor other people … making them interested both (in) research in policy and energy efficiency.”

State Senator Nancy Skinner was one of many under Rosenfeld’s mentorship. Skinner said in a statement that she first met Rosenfeld while she was an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. He became a friend and advisor to her, even throughout her time at the state legislature.

Margaret said her father never stopped working, despite his growing illness, and continued to involve himself with the political and scientific communities. When he was no longer able to leave his home, he moved meetings to his house and continued to work with graduate students and other junior trainees just shortly before his death.

“He just never let up,” Margaret said.

Rosenfeld is survived by his two daughters and six grandchildren.

Contact Fionce Siow at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fioncesiow.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy