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Dr. Patrick Gallagher
Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology
Groundbreaking Net Zero Building
March 25, 2011


Thank you, Shyam, and hello to everybody. Thank you for joining us today for this celebration event.

An event like this is really a beginning. It's a celebration of some early achievement that's all behind the scenes. So this is about getting things moving, but it's also about the teamwork that pulled it together. So before we start on the new beginnings part, let me first acknowledge the tremendous teamwork that it takes to pull something like this off.

It starts with resources and support, so let me start by thanking Team Maryland. Our congressional delegation in Maryland has played an enormously supportive and positive role.

One person who is not here today is Senator Barbara Mikulski, captain of Team Maryland, our senior senator, but her support has been absolutely instrumental in making this happen. So, I appreciate that Kristen Soper is here from her staff.

We are also joined by Congressman Chris Van Hollen, our own congressman who represents NIST. The chairman of the House Budget Committee, he plays an incredibly important role. And Ken Reichard is here as well, from Senator Ben Cardin's office.

We also have Team Obama here. So I want to thank Nancy Sutley for joining us. She's the chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. And Henry Kelley, who is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy, is joining us today.

And then, of course, our neighborhood, we have Team Montgomery County, so I want to thank Phil Andrews and Nancy Floreen for joining us as well today.

I also want to acknowledge, even though I can't single you all out, the enormous team at NIST who has helped carry this off. It takes an enormous amount of effort, from the programmatic staff who dream these ideas up and carry out these programs, to the contracting staff, to the facilities management staff who help support all of the activity that's here. This wouldn't happen without probably everybody in this room chipping in, and I want to acknowledge all of the effort that you put in. This is a time to pat yourself on the back, and then get right back to work because we're just getting started.

So the mission of NIST, of course, is to advance the nation's capacity to innovate and promote industrial competitiveness so we can, as the President said, help win the future. These research activities at NIST will directly help us grow the economy and improve our quality of life through advances in measurement science, new standards that protect life, and new technologies that improve our quality of life. And the three examples, the facilities we are here to celebrate today, really epitomize this.

The Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility. I was very excited when I saw this, because it is a house and I thought they were building a director's house, Shyam. But it is a test facility that will employ commercial technology in a design that would fit in Montgomery County. It will fit right in. It's been designed to meet U.S. Green Building Councils' LEED rating of platinum, which is the highest rating for energy efficiency and environmental protection. It will include state-of-the-art solar panels; state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; a smart grid meter; energy-efficiency lighting; advanced insulation. And in addition to all of these remarkable components, the facility is going to integrate them together into an operating residence and provide a laboratory where we can provide real data on how to operate these systems to achieve these goals of a building that generates as much energy as it uses—net-zero energy, sustainable energy. So while we innovate the new technologies here to help achieve energy sustainability in our homes, we're also going to be creating the construction industry of the future.

The other facility we're here to celebrate is the National Fire Research Laboratory. This will more than double the capacity of NIST's ability to study large-scale fire testing. This will be operated as a public-private partnership. The laboratory will allow us to test very large engineering structures under realistic fire and loading conditions, including those that would simulate earthquake conditions. It provides a sophisticated environmental control system so that the emissions from these test fires are both analyzed and scrubbed before they are released. This is a facility that owes its beginnings back to lessons learned out of the tragedy of the World Trade Center, where understanding the performance of large-scale structures under fire conditions, the need for this, became very apparent to all of us. And I'm delighted that our past director, Arden Bement, has joined us today. Arden was the director of NIST at that time and played a key role in leading and letting NIST play a lead role in that investigation. So, we're delighted to have you back, Arden.

And then finally, we have a project to install an extensive array of solar panels around NIST. These will be a very visible reminder of our commitment to promote energy efficiency in the way we operate as an agency here on this campus. These arrays will generate up to 600 kilowatts* of electricity. This is enough power to light up almost 70 homes on an annual basis and would reduce about 376 tons of carbon dioxide emission every year. But this being NIST, we're not just going to generate electricity, we're going to study these panels and we're going to collect data on how they perform, so that we can develop computer models that will help predict energy output on commercial photovoltaic arrays.

So, we have some pictures of these facilities out here. I think this is a remarkable beginning for us at NIST. Those of us who are research staff understand the critical role that facilities play in just making what we do possible. And I think with the facilities that we are starting today, the Engineering Lab, which has this remarkable 100-year history of supporting what we build in the United States in making it both resilient against disaster and safer for human life and first responders, and energy efficient, is only going to increase. And at the same time I think we can unleash an enormous economic wave of improvement. So I'm delighted that we're here today to celebrate this.

*corrected from delivered remarks