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Avoid Blackouts: Distributed Generation CHP Applications for Research Laboratories

P. Richard Rittelmann, FAIA, Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates

The recent blackout has renewed the urgency of providing reliable power for mission-critical facilities. Research laboratories are mission-critical facilities because they house a large number of experimental colonies of research subjects. Some of this research is the result of several decades of diligence. As such reliable power and climatic conditions are essential. The use of distributed generation (DG) affords an excellent opportunity for providing reliable power and also allows the reject heat to be used for heating, cooling and process hot water.

The results of a case study for a laboratory building in a hot and humid climate will be presented. For this 100,000 sq. ft. building, one megawatt of Microturbines DG system was designed. The matching of the facility electric load with the thermal loads, resulted in fuel use efficiency of over 75%. The performance of the Microturbine DG system for Combined Heat Power (CHP), will be presented. The environmental benefits of project will be discussed. The facility owner's decision making process will also be discussed. For the innovative project such as the one being discussed, there are non-quantifiable benefits such as:

  • Increased productivity of people,
  • Ability to attract research grants,
  • Ability to attract staff,
  • Friendly to the environment.

Most of these benefits are difficult to quantify in monetary terms. Therefore a "Modified Delphi Technique" for decision making was devised. Using this method, a group of people were able to rate projects with "less than the best available information".

The presentation will discuss the emerging trend for distributed generation for mission-critical buildings. This will be done with a case study and a method of decision making that the facility owners are likely to use. The conference participants will leave with a clear understanding of the DG/CHP applications that will help avoid the blackout related problems and will also learn the innovative decision making process.


The design of innovative energy systems for the labs must not be carried out only in the context of the first cost or the payback period but must also consider many other non-quantifiable factors. A method must be used to translate the non quantifiable factors into tangible benefits for the project. For the proposed case study, these factors are listed above under the abstract. The valuable lessons learnt from the project are:

  • How to communicate innovative design concepts to a diverse team of individuals.
  • How to integrate new technology systems in the areas where environmental regulations are changing.
  • How would the lab buildings be better served with distributed generation and Combined heat power systems.
  • How does the case study address the major requirement of the "National Energy Policy 2000" document by increasing the fuel use efficiency.
  • Improve the power reliability and quality at the facility.

Labs21 Connection:

The proposed study addresses the following aspects of the Labs21 approach:

  1. Use of life cycle cost decision making.
  2. Sustainable energy and water efficiency.
  3. Emissions reduction.
  4. On-site power and Combined heat and power technologies.


Dick Rittelmann, FAIA, is the Chairman of Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates, an Architecture, Engineering, Interiors, and Applied Research Firm in Butler, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Dick is a Fellow of American Institute of Architects. His involvement with Power System using Alternative Energy systems, dates back to 1970's. During that time he was actively involved with various DOE activities for Large -Scale PV Systems and other Solar Energy projects. He has participated in the International Energy Agency (IEA) activities as U. S. representative for several tasks. He also participates on the Research Advisory Boards for many National Labs which include Lawrence Berkeley Labs, and Oakridge National Lab. Dick is a highly sought speaker by various professional organizations such as Strategic Research Institute, Tradelines, AIA, ASHRAE, CIC, EPA Laboratories for the 21st Century, EDUCAUSE, APPA, ERAPPA, SCUP, AEC Systems, various Hospital Technology organizations etc. He has been involved in presenting papers and seminars for over 40 years. His expertise in addition to architecture for Mission-Critical Buildings, includes Information Systems, High Technology Medical Systems, Research Labs and Communication Facilities.


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