November 15, 2012

ZEN plans move ahead

By: Larry Rulison

Source: Times Union

ALBANY — The construction season never ends at Albany NanoTech.

Next week, the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering will release bid documents to developers, architects and construction companies for the school's latest undertaking — a 200,000-square-foot facility dedicated to clean energy technology.

The NanoCollege has been planning the new facility — known as the ZEN building for "zero-energy nano" — for years now. It will be just east of the school's $365 million NanoFab X building that is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

So-called requests-for-proposals will be available next Tuesday for qualified businesses that sign confidentiality agreements. Responses to the RFP, in which architectural firms and developers outline their ideas and specifications for the building, are due back to the NanoCollege on Jan. 4.

NanoCollege spokesman Steve Janack confirmed that the new building would be the ZEN building, although he said additional details are not available, except those previously revealed by the school.

Construction of the ZEN building has been envisioned to begin after completion of the $18 million project to move Washington Avenue Extension to the north of the 11-acre parcel where NanoFab X has been built. In renderings, both NanoFab X and the ZEN building appear to be connected.

Both NanoFab X and the ZEN building were designed for research and development operations for large consortia of companies in the semiconductor industry.

NanoFab X, which is 280,000 square feet, will house the Global 450 Consortium, a group of the world's largest computer chip makers that are working to transition the industry to using larger, 18-inch, or 450 millimeter, silicon wafers for manufacturing. The current industry standard is 12-inch wafers.

The ZEN building is expected to house clean-energy research coming out of the NanoCollege, including the new U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium, which the school was able to launch with a $57 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Previous estimates have put the cost of the ZEN building at between $75 million and $85 million. The bid documents being released next week call for not only lab and office space, but also classrooms and state-of-the-art information technology infrastructure.

Presentations by college officials to various industry groups indicate that the ZEN building will be a living laboratory and demonstration project for buildings that have a net energy consumption of zero. The building would also allow researchers to analyze the "interplay" between energy, water, light, ventilation, temperature and waste, according to these presentations. Researchers would also test new building concepts through simulation software.

Although the NanoCollege is seeking bids on a building that would be at "minimum" 200,000 square feet, the size of the ZEN building has been previously listed as only 100,000 square feet of space in documents submitted to the state last month for funding through the Capital Region Economic Development Council. However, school officials have said in the past that some of the operations originally located in the NanoFab X building could find their way to the ZEN building, which could account for the additional space.