Oak Ridge National Laboratory Retrofit

Dow Building Solutions

Dow Building Solutions, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have taken the first step toward tackling one of the biggest environmental concerns – the amount of energy consumed by the 4.8 million commercial buildings in the U.S., many of which were built before today’s energy efficiency standards. Dow, ORNL, and design-build firm Paramount Metal Systems have turned a 50-year-old building at ORNL in Oak Ridge, TN, into a state-of-the art, energy efficient research facility. Initial test results show a 75 percent reduction in heat flow, resulting in a projected 75-80 percent monthly savings in energy costs.

The completed facility also features metal roofing and siding from Custom-Bilt Metals, along with retrofit framing by Roof Hugger.

ORNL selected the facility as a test site to demonstrate that retrofitting older buildings is a viable, cost-effective option to achieve an immediate reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings account for 43 percent of the United States’ carbon emissions and, according to a recent McKinsey study, insulation is one of the most cost-effective means of reducing energy consumption and the generation of greenhouse gases. According to the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Challenge, improving the energy efficiency of U.S. commercial and industrial buildings by 10 percent would reduce greenhouse gases equal to the emissions from about 30 million vehicles.

“The annual "utility bill" for commercial buildings is $155 billion. If you consider the number of buildings in the U.S. that were built before today’s energy efficiency standards, you can see there is a tremendous need as well as a tremendous market opportunity,” said Doug Todd, market manager, commercial construction, Dow Building Solutions, North America. “Dow’s commitment to sustainability, combined with our exceptional building science expertise and proven products, makes us a natural part of the solution.”

Unusual Design, Rigorous Standards

Built in the 1960’s, the ORNL research facility’s unusual design – metal construction with a sloped roof attached to a masonry building with a flat, modified bitumen roof – made the retrofit a challenge. But this is also what made it a perfect model – it addressed many of the challenges that a design-build firm may encounter when retrofitting an older building.

ORNL’s objectives for this ambitious retrofit were to increase the building’s sustainability and energy efficiency and make it suitable for sensitive ongoing research, to participate in its own Sustainable Campus Initiative, and to establish long-term energy efficiency testing of the retrofit itself.

“ORNL established very stringent performance energy efficiency targets, hired a seasoned retrofit consultant and design-build firm, and took a solutions-oriented, science-based approach, rigorously analyzing every product before choosing Dow Building Solutions as the insulation provider and technical collaborator for this challenging project. We look forward to the long-term performance measurement results,” explained Todd.

Before selecting Paramount Metal Systems as the design-build firm for the retrofit, André Desjarlais, group leader for Building Envelopes Research, ORNL, established the minimum R-value requirements, moisture migration targets, and an overall goal of exceeding current code requirements of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Oak Ridge National Laboratory turned to Robert Scichili, of Robert Scichili Associates to manage the project and put together the construction team. Scichili teamed up with Paramount Metal Systems, a Little Rock, AR design-build contractor and Dow Building Solutions to help improve the sustainable performance of their 50-year-old building. One of the challenges Paramount and ORNL faced was there weren’t any physical, provable metal building retrofit projects that they could test for retrofitting performance. “As a result, a highly-skilled team headed by Scichili was commissioned to design a demonstrable project used to display the measurable benefits of various cool roofing technologies and framing systems,” said David Dodge, president of Paramount Metal Systems. “ORNL wanted a high-quality retrofit job with proven solutions. The team selected Dow Building Solutions based on its quality products and building science experience and know-how.”

The complete building envelope retrofit relies on THERMAX™ Insulation, FROTH-PAK™ Foam Insulation kit and GREAT STUFF™ PRO Insulating Foam Sealant from Dow to help exceed design targets. “This project demonstrates Dow’s ability to respond to the growing retrofit market by applying today’s insulation solutions and technologies to existing buildings, bringing them up to or even beyond current codes, and providing a return on investment through energy savings year after year,” Todd noted.

“Every product selected for the retrofit project was carefully researched and chosen based on performance,” said Desjarlais. “The result is a building that looks brand new, exceeds ASHRAE energy efficiency code, and provides a consistent, comfortable working environment for the people conducting research inside. As we continue to monitor thermal performance over the years, we believe this retrofit will serve as a standard against which to measure other retrofits.”

For information on metal roofing and other products from Custom-Bilt Metals, visit

To learn about retrofit framing from Roof Hugger, visit

About The Dow Chemical Company

Dow combines the power of science and technology with the “Human Element” to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world’s most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, renewable energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow’s diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings and agriculture. In 2009, Dow had annual sales of $45 billion and employed approximately 52,000 people worldwide. The Company’s more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 214 sites in 37 countries across the globe. More information about Dow can be found at

About The Building Envelope Research Group

The Building Envelope Research Group of Oak Ridge National Laboratory is devoted to developing affordable envelope technologies that improve the energy efficiency, durability, and environmental sustainability of residential and commercial buildings. The research addresses: systems (walls, roofs and foundations), components (sheathings, membranes, and coatings), materials, and the fundamentals of heat, air, and moisture transfer.

About Dow Building Solutions

Dow_logoDow Building Solutions offers a whole host of products designed for the building envelope. For more information, visit

^ Back To Top