New ORNL complex wins award for green construction


OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 27, 2004 -- Building a "green" mega-facility posed many challenges, but Oak Ridge National Laboratory wants to lead by example, and the effort has paid off with a 2003 Excellence in Construction award from a major contractors association.

The honor recognizes the Department of Energy's ORNL and Stanley Jones Corp. for building a complex of more than 370,000 square feet that provides environmental, economic, health and community benefits. The building complex features research laboratories, offices and a 40,000-square-foot computational sciences center with an abundance of technological advances -- right down to the carpeting. All are designed to reduce the building's impacts on human health and the environment.

"This award represents national recognition and takes into account safety, value engineering, quality control, scheduling, project difficulty, budget and unique challenges in completing the project," said Keith Dempsey of ORNL's Facilities Development Division. Dempsey noted that an out-of-state team of contractors and designers unaffiliated with the project judged the building. The award honors contractors, designers and owners.

Among the many attributes cited in the award -- and the most significant to DOE and ORNL -- is the green approach to design and construction. For example, the buildings boast a high quantity of recycled material; low-volatile paints, sealants and coatings; and energy-efficient roofs and windows. The complex, built on what's called a brownfield site, also features rainwater-fed landscaping that includes trees that will provide significant shade within a few years.

Aside from the engineering aspects, construction represented a departure from the norm in East Tennessee.

"We had to fight the tendency to do things the way they have always been done," Dempsey said, "because one of our goals was to bring knowledge of green building design and construction to ORNL and to East Tennessee."

Dempsey and Tim Myrick headed the project to ensure the building would meet national criteria established for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Those criteria were developed by the U.S. Green Buildings Council (, a building industry coalition that promotes environmentally responsible technologies.

Architects, engineers and contractors were all part of the process, which was a learning experience for everyone, Dempsey said. A truly sustainable product used in construction of a building balances numerous environmental factors related to its manufacture, installation, use and eventual disposal. And even the distance a product must be shipped to the job site needs to be considered.

All of this comes with a price, but it's not exorbitant compared to the value added to the building, according to Dempsey.

"One of the major obstacles we had to overcome was the notion that it costs a lot more money to design and build a green building," Dempsey said. "The fact is that it adds an additional 1 or 2 percent to the cost. But in the end, you have a building that will help conserve resources, improve air and water quality, and make a statement that we are serious about the environment."

Jeff Christian, director of ORNL's Buildings Technology Center, agreed -- and explained his group's contributions.

"From the very beginning, the lab team expressed the desire to have as energy-efficient a facility as possible," Christian said. "The Buildings Technology Center research staff was invited to offer suggestions early in the design process. Some of our suggestions are now part of this facility.

"The earlier in the design process that energy efficiency concepts are considered, the larger the impacts. Even bigger rewards will be generated as the value of enhanced productivity in healthy, energy-efficient buildings is folded into the design process."

ORNL's buildings were selected for an Associated Builders and Contractors Eagle award, which will be presented at a ceremony in Honolulu Feb. 27. The judging panel consisted of a cross section of the construction industry and representatives from the American Institute of Architects, National Institute of Building Sciences, Design-Build Institute of America, Georgia Southern University, University of Florida, National Association of Women in Construction and Business Development Journal magazine. For more information about the awards, visit

Source: Eurekalert & others

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