As I read the press release, something about the DOE’s planned user test bed facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab reminded me of the old Wendy’s commercial from the ’80s that most of you are, uh, mature enough to recall. (If you’re not, or if the sands of time have clogged up some synapses, do a quick search for “wendy’s parts is parts” and that should dial the video right up.)
The premise was the counter employee at the competition explaining to the concerned customer that its chicken sandwich wasn’t a chicken breast but was actually composed of “parts.” Which particular parts wasn’t important because, after all, “parts is parts.” And then employee #2 chimes in to report that all the various parts are “fused” into one big part, and then that’s cut up to make sandwiches. A funny and effective ad.
When it comes to buildings, the quality involved means that “parts is parts” doesn’t apply. But as owners, commissioning agents, and others know, even having an assembly of quality parts doesn’t ensure that all that goodness will transfer to the performance of the functioning whole building. (Sometimes, the culprit is installation — a key point made at the recent Danfoss EnVisioneering Symposium, see the story in this issue’s “Issues & Events.”)
Throw in new technologies hitting the marketplace, and there’s more hands-on uncertainty than ever regarding how different components will work in various combinations or circumstances. And how accurate are energy simulations in predicting these outcomes? As the press release by Julie Chao outlined, that’s where this test bed facility will come in.
“One can think of these test beds as kind of an erector set. They’re designed with extreme flexibility in mind,” said Berkeley Lab engineer Oren Schetrit, a program manager for the Test Bed Facility. “You’ll be able to change out the walls, windows, lighting, HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] system, external or internal shading and the configuration of the internal office systems. You can also lower or raise the ceiling height and floor height.”