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Oak Ridge National Laboratory Tops Out On Chemical And Materials Sciences Building

December 3, 2009

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has reached  a construction milestone on a  $95 million project to build the laboratory’s new Chemical and Materials Sciences Building.

The facility’s last structural steel beam was raised and positioned into place, along with a ceremonial evergreen tree and American flag, by McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., in a special “topping out” ceremony held at the construction site today.

Ground was broken June 1 on the three-story, 160,000-gross-square-foot research facility on the 10,000-acre Oak Ridge National Laboratory campus. McCarthy is serving as Construction Manager-at-Risk for the project, which is scheduled for May 2011 completion.

Construction of the new laboratory facility is supported by $60.6 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. With only about 20 percent of the project funds spent since being awarded in April, the work already has created or saved about 100 subcontractor jobs.

“This building is one of the first Recovery Act science projects launched, and it is an important part of our overall plan to update facilities and expand research capabilities at ORNL,” said Jimmy Stone, ORNL deputy director of Facilities and Operations. “The construction is being performed on schedule, on budget, and with an emphasis on safety. McCarthy has done an outstanding job.”

Located on the site of a former parking lot, the new research facility will be situated on high-visibility Central Avenue on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory campus. “Oak Ridge National Laboratory is an active campus, and there are space restrictions on every side of our project, which add to the project’s complexity,” said Larry Van Houten, project director for McCarthy.

In keeping with campus architecture, the building’s structural steel frame will be clad with precast concrete and glass curtainwall. With the intent to achieve LEED Gold certification through the United States Green Building Council, the building will include a variety of sustainable features. Among those is a photovoltaic system that converts sunlight directly into interior lighting. “By day, the lighting system will operate without electricity,” Van Houten said. A backup system will also be installed for use during non-daylight hours.

To maximize the amount of natural light in the building, light shelves will be installed at the windows to reflect daylight onto the ceiling and deeper into the space. Windows will also be installed between the building’s first interior wall and the next rooms to further extend natural lighting. The project’s other environmentally conscious features include energy efficient electrical, air conditioning and plumbing systems; and use of roof drains that direct water run-off into underground tanks, where it will be collected and used for landscape irrigation at the site.

Finalization of concept design, design and construction documents and construction administration are by Cannon Design of St. Louis. Original concept design was completed by Flad Architects of Madison, Wisc. McCarthy is utilizing local tradespeople for construction. Contractors currently on the project include Gem Technologies, Ozark Steel Fabrication, Kelpe Contracting, T.U. Parks Construction Co. , Gate Precast, Payne Crest Electric, John E. Green Mechanical, Odom Construction, Escola Roofing, Trainor Glass, Johnson Controls and Thyssen Krupp Elevator.

Topping Out Ceremony History

A “topping out” is a ceremony that heralds the final structural beam for a new building. A popular custom, the ceremony celebrates a successful structure and honors the workers involved in the construction project. It is common to see an evergreen tree and American flag hoisted alongside each other on the final beam. Rooted in old Scandinavian custom, the evergreen tree is venerated as a symbol of hardiness and life. The ancient Vikings, upon return from a successful raid, tied an evergreen tree to the ridge pole of their feasting hall as a symbol of victory and strength. An American flag is hoisted to demonstrate loyalty to flag and country.

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