RAISING THE QUALITY OF ROOF RESEARCH
During the mid-1980s DOE established its Roof Research Center at the Laboratory to cooperate with industry in the development of more energy-efficient and durable roofs for homes and businesses.
The idea for such a center was conceived at the Laboratory by Jim Robinson, and George Courville and Dick Huntley guided the design, construction, and initial operation of the facility. Researchers at this unique user facility, with industrial sponsors and advisors, test roofing systems in a climate simulator.
The Center's research improves understanding of the thermal and physical characteristics of various roofing systems and insulating materials. This information helps identify roofing materials and insulations that last longer, hold more heat, and use materials that are less damaging to the environment.
For example, ORNL researchers have determined that some types of blown-in insulation in buildings in the northern United States permit air movement within the insulation, resulting in natural convection. Compared with conduction, convection allows more heat to escape from within a building to the outside. The researchers confirmed that natural convective heat loss in some loosefill fiberglass insulations can be responsible for as much as half of the heat loss at very low temperatures. As a result of this Roof Research Center achievement, the private firm Energy Savings Solutions developed a thin plastic-wrapped fiberglass batt that can cover existing insulation to nearly eliminate convection losses. In addition, Minnesota improved its state building code to require insulation manufacturers to guarantee the performance of their products during the coldest weather expected.
The Roof Research Center is also being used to determine how ozone-safe roof insulation responds to aging as heat flows through it. The roof foam used for thermal tests contains hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which do not persist nearly as long in the stratosphere as ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). One outcome of this work may be an improved HCFC-blown roofing insulation that is nearly as efficient as CFC-blown insulation in keeping wanted heat in and unwanted heat out. As a result, it may be possible to speed the elimination of CFC insulation for roofs and help preserve the stratospheric ozone layer that protects humans from hazardous solar radiation.
Providing industry with unparalleled opportunities for testing roof system responses to precipitation, stresses, and energy flows, the center establishes new standards for roofing research. Owners of new buildings or new roofs benefit directly from the new standards and the nation gains an improved energy and environmental outlook.
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