New High-Performance Insulation Technology Testing in Fort Drum


The U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers will test a modern high-performance insulation technology for building that was created to maintain heat in a building more effectively and with higher costs savings. The test will take place in Fort Drum, New York.

Together with the research lab in the Army Corps of Engineers known as the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), the Fort Drum Energy Branch will conduct an energy-efficient project which will use two military buildings. This is because of the fact that energy loss, especially wall-related heat loss, costs the U.S. Department of Defense an approximate of $200 every year and 5 percent of the overall energy cost is from the military facilities.

CERL is a section of the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and is doing the project with the help of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and NanoPore Inc. CERL Project Manager Tapan Patel was present to keep an eye on and help with the installation of the new insulation. He also pointed out that the main target of the study is to establish and corroborate the cost and energy performance of a high-quality insulation technology known as the modified atmosphere insulation or MAI.

“MAI represents a new generation of advanced thermal insulation with the performance of silica-based vacuum insulation panels and significantly reduced cost. This technology has great potential benefit for the Army and the DOD,” Patel said.

Covered with metal siding by a worker from Fort Drum Public Works’ Carpentry and Electrical Shop, the MAI panels were set up on the exterior side of the walls. Steve Rowley, Fort Drum Energy Branch Manager said, “The two buildings used for this project are both identical in features, size, construction, age, and type of equipment, so we can monitor the energy use of both the test and baseline building. They were originally used as arms rooms but are now being occupied by the safety office for training.”

Installing the panels outside is good for easier access and installation, and also, it will cause minimal interruption to the inside of the building. The installation process involved careful handling of the materials so as not to ruin the vacuum-sealed panels attached to the walls.

There is also a so-called R-value, the rating criteria for thermal resistance for an insulating material. The higher the number, the greater the effectiveness of the material. Patel added, “If the panels were punctured, it would lose its vacuum, which provides a lot of the R-value.”

The research team has done initial blower door tests to find out the air tightness of the building and conducted infrared scanning to find any thermal defects in the panels. The control building and test building will be closely observed and monitored in a span of one year to cover the scope of cooling and heating conditions for side-by-side comparisons. Humidity, heat flux, and temperature sensors, and instrumentation were installed in July and will be remotely checked from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

“We’ll come back in late February or March to do the IR imaging again. There may be variables outside our control that could cause the panels to fail through the course of the winter. Once we have some data and we are able to draw conclusions, we’ll present our work in front of other engineers,” Patel added.

The project is financed by the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program of the DOD, which is located in Alexandria, Virginia. An Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) representative, TravisMichaelke, was also present during the installation.