UPDATE: Richland's PNNL plans new $10 million building

Tri-City HeraldJanuary 29, 2014 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's new energy research building is shown in a drawing by Meier Architecture Engineering.

COURTESY PNNL

— Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will be getting a new $10 million building for research in Richland.

The 22,000-square-foot facility will be used for a broad variety of energy research and the Department of Energy national lab's efforts to operate an energy-efficient campus.

"It's really to accommodate growth in our energy portfolio at the lab," said PNNL director Mike Kluse. "(Energy research) is the fastest growing part of the lab's portfolio and is consistent with the priority DOE and the nation put on a national clean energy agenda."

DGR*Grant Construction of Richland was awarded a contract this month to design and build the facility. Its team includes Meier Architecture Engineering of Kennewick.

Construction of the building is planned to start in April on the north end of PNNL's campus, near the corner of Stevens Drive and Horn Rapids Road. Work is expected to be done in phases to speed up construction, with the building finished in late spring 2015.

The lab will be paid for with DOE money allocated for PNNL, as the lab's leadership has worked to operate the lab as efficiently as possible to have money to invest in projects like updated facilities, Kluse said.

Despite challenging budget times, the lab cannot lose "its courage to invest in the facilities, people and capabilities critical for the lab to move ahead," he said.

The national lab has lost staff in recent years because of tight and uncertain federal budgets, but still plans to continue upgrading facilities to perform cutting-edge research. It now employs 4,300 people and spent $936 million on research in the last fiscal year, averaging one patent per week.

The new building will allow PNNL "to modernize and move science into more usable space," said Julie Erickson, deputy manager of DOE's Pacific Northwest Site Office.

"It's a small lab building, but very versatile to support a multitude of purposes," she said.

The building will include a mix of laboratory, computing, control room and office space, with at least 45 staff members based there.

Energy research will be done to improve the reliability and resiliency of the nation's power grid, with PNNL's Energy Operations Center moved there. The center replicates a grid control room environment with functional energy management system software, live grid data and other industry tools.

Computations will be done to help integrate renewable energy like wind power onto the grid and to optimize and control a variety of energy sources. Research also will be done to reduce the energy use in buildings, including modeling new approaches and developing new materials that increase energy efficiency.

The facility is expected to benefit other PNNL programs as it integrates the national lab's capabilities in computer science, mathematics and systems engineering.

PNNL's Building Operations Control Center also will be relocated to the new building. The center monitors and improves energy use and system performance of PNNL buildings, with operations staff using building energy efficiency software and approaches developed at PNNL for the federal government.

The new building will allow greater collaboration between research and facilities staff to continue to improve the energy efficiency of PNNL facilities, according to the national lab.

Kluse also spoke Wednesday at the Tri-City Development Council's Regional Economic Outlook Forum, saying the lab will continue to make investments in laboratory capabilities.

"I'm very bullish about where this laboratory is headed," he said. "We are going to continue to make impacts nationally."

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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