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The Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) is a technologically advanced research facility on the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory campus in Golden, Colorado. Completed in March 2013 and named the R&D Magazine's Lab of the Year in 2014, the complex project includes a new office building, a high-bay research laboratory, and a high-performance computing data center under one roof. It serves as the nation’s only facility that can conduct integrated megawatt-scale testing of the strategies needed to safely move clean energy technologies on the electrical grid at the speed and scale required to meet federal policy.

To carry out the design-build contract all project stakeholders utilized Collaborative Project Delivery (CPD) to meet the challenges presented by the building’s technological advancement, terrain, and LEED specifications. Our project team and design partners communicated throughout the project with the owner and all stakeholders. The CPD process elevated team communication and allowed us to tackle issues early to avoid scheduling delays.

CPD played a large role in the design, installation and commissioning of the Research Electrical Distribution Bus (REDB) which was the first of its kind and had to be designed, built, and tested offsite before being brought into the project. The team’s collaboration with a diverse group of lab end users ensured it delivered the functionality needed to meet the mission need of the facility.

In line with the mission of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the entire facility was built to LEED Platinum Certification. A major challenge in delivering Platinum was a first of its kind, high-performance computing data center (HPCDC) and an energy strategy that enables the use of recyclable heat. The “waste heat” is captured and utilized throughout the building.  Designed for future expansion, the HPCDC will eventually export surplus heat to other buildings on NREL’s campus as well. To meet the challenges presented by the REDB and HPDCDC, JE Dunn worked with a very talented and innovative group of design and construction partners including; SmithGroupJJR, AEI, Integral Group, M-Tech and Encore Electric.

Overall, CPD required a commitment to communication, quality, and adhesion to the budget and schedule. As technology and industry move forward, so will the demands of the buildings that house them. Facilities must produce more, while costing less and sustainability is advancing to the forefront with LEED Certification almost becoming an expectation on new design and construction. Processes like CPD will allow the next generation of builders to meet and exceed these expectations.