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The Office of Science occupies many buildings around the country, but it owns only two of them. One of them is making some news. The 134,629 sq. ft. (about 3 acres) roof of the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) building in Oak Ridge, Tennessee is now officially a "Cool Roof" -- making it energy efficient in ways that darker roofs are not. Cool roofs are light in color, and therefore, reflect rather than absorb sunlight. 

The previous roof was black, but worse, it was leaky and those leaks, controlled for years in some very innovative ways by the OSTI staff, were going to cause significant problems if not addressed. OSTI needed to invest in a new roof to ensure employee safety, protect the structural integrity of the largest federal office building managed by the Office of Science and safeguard its databases and historical collection of scientific and technical information documents, some of which date back to the Manhattan Project and which exist nowhere else.

The re-roofing project began before the President issued his Executive Order directing the federal government to set a good example for the nation on sustainability. In July, Secretary Chu, a longtime proponent of cool roofs, announced that the Department of Energy would more broadly implement cool roof technologies on Departmental facilities. He noted that "cool roofs are one of the quickest and lowest cost ways we can reduce our global carbon emissions and begin the hard work of slowing climate change. By demonstrating the benefits of cool roofs on our facilities, the federal government can lead the nation toward more sustainable building practices, while reducing the federal carbon footprint and saving money for taxpayers."

OSTI gladly decided to install a cool roof: a roofing system that can deliver solar reflectance (the ability to reflect the visible, infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths of the sun, reducing heat transfer to the building) and thermal emittance (the ability to radiate absorbed or non-reflected solar energy). A cool roof has many benefits; including reducing both the demand for energy use and the resulting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

OSTI has a proud history of being green -- fluorescent lights were retrofitted with new energy saving instant start electronic ballasts, most light fixtures have been changed from 4 lamps to 2 lamps, all incandescent lamps in the building have been retrofitted with compact fluorescent lamps, air conditioning units are energy efficient and windows throughout the facility have been updated with energy efficient windows with thermal break frames. In the future, OSTI hopes to install a large scale photovoltaic system that could produce as much as 16%-24% of OSTI's electrical consumption.

OSTI’s mission, mandated by law, is to advance science and sustain technological creativity by making R&D findings available and useful to the Energy Department researchers and the public. So, in addition to providing unparalleled and transparent access to the Energy Department's work , it's also leading in other ways. It now does its work under the protection of a very cool roof.

Pictures of the new energy efficient roof at Oak Ridge: