Final Phase of Building Envelope Research Starts at ORNL

The Metal Construction Association (MCA) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has begun the final phase of a three-year Dynamic Building Envelope Research project. The program, which began in 2009, is aimed at evaluating the future needs of advanced metal roof and wall assemblies. In the final phase of the project, the synergies between various components of metal roof assemblies will be evaluated for their ability to improve energy efficiency. Components in the roof assemblies include insulation, radiant barriers, phase change materials, and above sheathing ventilation. In addition, the current research phase that has begun evaluates the interaction of cool metal roofing and Si crystalline photovoltaic modules in both steep slope and low slope orientations.

Full size roof mock ups are installed on the Envelope Systems Research Apparatus (ESRA) and the Roof Thermal Research Apparatus (RTRA) in the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center (BTRIC) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, TN. The multi-year research project is supported by the Glenview, IL-based MCA, which is the largest North American trade association representing metal building component manufacturers and material suppliers.

“This phase of the research will help us understand more impacts from the interaction between the various components of a roof assembly,” said Scott Kriner, MCA’s technical director. “Many of the experiments are designed to demonstrate how certain components can store heat or dissipate heat beneath the roof surface and minimize heat gain into the building space below the roof. Results from this final phase will allow us to optimize the design of a metal roof assembly to provide the most energy efficiency in a given climate.”

Kaushik Biswas, Ph.D., research and development associate at ORNL said, “Apart from demonstrating the reduction in through-the-roof heat gain/loss compared to commonly used shingle roofs, the data generated from these experimental roofs are invaluable from a modeling perspective. Validated simulation models can estimate the actual energy savings from each technology component for different climate zones and provide recommendations for optimum roof design.”

One of the missions of the ORNL Buildings Technology Research Center is to work with private industry to accelerate market penetration of the most promising energy efficient opaque building roof and wall technologies. MCA, ORNL, and several suppliers collaborated to install the experimental attic roofs on the ORNL campus. Aside from MCA member participation, other suppliers of materials included CertainTeed, a manufacturer of thermal insulation and building envelope materials, and Phase Change Energy Solutions, a manufacturer of bio-based phase change materials (PCMs).