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The relationship and, often as not, tension between hardheaded engineers and design-conscious architects is woven into the fabric of every great building.
But a question kept coming back to me on a recent day I spent inside the National Renewable Energy Lab’s new hyper-efficient office building in Golden, Colo., to report this article: Is there a place where pure function, distilled and crystallized into 1,000 tiny number-driven decisions, becomes art?
The $64 million Research Support building opened last year as a kind of physical assertion by the Energy Department, the lab’s parent agency, that office space can be driven down to zero net energy use through a combination of on-site energy production (rooftop solar) and fanatical attention to detail everywhere else in how the building saves and sips energy as a workplace for 800 engineers, managers and support staff members.
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