Faced with a limited budget and a challenge to design an environmentally sound facility to replace the outgrown Noah Nothing Caring and Teaching House on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Tampa, University of South Florida (USF) design students chose to install Thermablok aerogel insulating strips in the recently completed, award-winning project that provides food, tutoring, and other services to those who need assistance returning to, or becoming functioning members of society.
Beginning in the summer of 2008, the USF Design/Build program, directed by Stanley Russell, was asked to take on the structure’s creation from beginning to end as part of their curriculum. The intent was to create an energy-efficient facility in which to continue the food bank and social services work that had been provided at its former facility — an old, small wood frame house that did not have adequate space, and had no room for growth.
With the enormous pantry portion of the facility being integral to its food bank operations, the USF design team chose to install Thermablok® insulating strips, made from NASA’s aerogel technology, to reduce thermal bridging and conserve energy in the building’s food storage rooms.
Thermablok® President and Founder Lahnie Johnson donated the company’s aerogel insulation, which uses technology developed in conjunction with NASA, to the USF project. Aerogel, sometimes referred to as “frozen smoke”, has the highest insulating properties of any known material in existence.
Consisting of more than 95-percent air, Thermablok is virtually weightless making it easy and inexpensive to ship and install. Made in the USA, Thermablok is 100-percent recyclable and is now available to the public for both commercial and residential building applications.
Because of the modest budget and a desire to build in a sustainable way, reclaimed shipping containers were used as the main components of the Noah Nothing House structure. A continuous strip of clerestory windows provides daylight for the interior spaces.
The facility consists of a pantry area for canned and frozen foods, a computer room, a small kitchen, a lobby/reception area, a small meeting room and a flexible multi- use space. The containers, arranged in a pinwheel pattern, cradle the multi-use space, with its 12-foot ceilings and clerestory on the south and west. In concert with the Thermablok aerogel insulating strips, the facility is a next-generation example of energy-efficient building materials and applications that are quickly becoming the norm in today’s building industry.
Thermablok, is unsurpassed in its insulating properties, impervious to moisture and mold and unaffected by age; just one, ¼-inch x 1½-inch (6.25mm x 38mm) strip of Thermablok added to only one edge of each stud before hanging drywall breaks the conductive “thermal bridging” and can increase the overall wall R-factor by more than 40 percent (US Department of Energy/JM Laboratories.)