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High-Performance Sustainable Buildings

Green Buildings: Guiding Principles

In 2018, ORNL's high performance sustainable building (HPSB) inventory included a total of 20 buildings that are certified as having attained 100% of the HPSB Guiding Principles (GPs). This represents 15% of the total applicable site building according to the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in Sustainable Buildings. ORNL is one of the few federal sites to have reached the GP target (15% by building count) for DOE Green Buildings, 100% GP attainment. Achieving HPSB status is only the beginning of an ongoing cycle of "plan, do, check, act" energy policy designed for continuous improvement. Advanced metering and building automation system data are leveraged to monitor ongoing performance. ORNL will focus on leveraging energy data and performance analytics whenever possible to make progress towards fulfilling GPs.

One of the ways that ORNL achieved HPSB success was through our long association with the US Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program.

guest house

LEED is an internationally recognized certification system that measures how well a building performs across environmental metrics including energy savings, water efficiency, COemissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. ORNL achieved one million square feet LEED buildings on site in 2008, a first for Tennessee and DOE.

The LEED for New Construction Rating System is designed to guide and distinguish high-performance commercial and institutional projects. ORNL had eighteen LEED-certified buildings at the end of FY11. Three of those buildings, the Multiprogram Research Facility, the Guest House and Melton Valley Support Facility (7995), are LEED gold-certified, and another two, the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences and Building 3625, are LEED silver-certified. All new construction is specified as LEED Gold in the facility development process.

The goal of LEED for Existing Buildings Rating System is to maximize operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. LEED for Existing Buildings addresses whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues (including chemical use), recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs, and systems upgrades.


Building 1059 was the subject of a pilot effort to obtain LEED Gold Existing Building Certification. This building, built in 1992, is 6,998 square feet in area. The building was energy efficient for its time but was retrofitted so that it can continue to serve as a model of energy efficiency for similar buildings. 

The DOE Environmental Sustainability (EStar) Awards “honored ORNL for documentation of the Building 1059 renovation process and the building’s certification as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) Gold. Documentation of the methods used in renovating 1059 will streamline the certification of other building renovations.”  ORNL also won “Best in Class” award for the retrofit of 1059 and LEED-EB status in 2010.

Renovation of Building 3156 has produced ORNL’s first net-zero-energy building (NZEB) with zero net-energy consumption and no carbon emissions.  It is also the first DOE NZEB and first commercial building to be retrofitted to a NZEB. Renovations greatly reduced the building’s energy use, and a nearby solar array provides energy to the grid that offsets the remaining power used by the building.

Update: Building 5200 is now LEED GOLD using the LEED ARC Platform. See the highlight here.

Energy Star Labeled Buildings

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of EPA and DOE helping to save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Two ORNL buildings have earned the Energy Star label:

  • Buildings Technology Center Headquarters (listed in 2000) and
  • Mammalian Genetics Office (Building 1059) (listed in 2004).