Major building and construction projects have been put on pause by the global recession, but some promising news appears on the horizon: Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) officials just announced that construction will start in approximately eight weeks on a major research facility made possible by $71.2 million from the new U.S. administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Funds are part of $1.2 billion announced by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu from funding allocated under the Act to the DOE's Office of Science. The funds will support a variety of Office of Science-sponsored construction, laboratory infrastructure, and research projects across the country. The Secretary made the announcement during a visit to Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, N.Y.

“Leadership in science remains vital to America's economic prosperity, energy security, and global competitiveness,” says Secretary Chu. “These projects not only provide critically needed short-term economic relief, but also represent a strategic investment in our nation's future. They will create thousands of jobs and breathe new life into many local economies, while helping to accelerate new technology development, renew our scientific and engineering workforce, and modernize our nation's scientific infrastructure.”

ORNL Director Thom Mason said the first installment of stimulus funds released this week by DOE will be used to accelerate construction of a new chemical and materials sciences research building designed to replace an aging facility that contains a number of inefficient laboratories. Mason said designs are nearly complete and contractors have been selected for the new 160,000 sq-ft facility that will house 200 researchers working on projects that include solar batteries, corrosion-resistant materials, and superconducting transmission lines.

As a part of ORNL's modernization standards, the new facility will be LEED-certified by the Green Building Council for excellence in sustainability and low energy consumption. Lab officials said the stimulus funds will accelerate construction and enable the project to be completed in 2011, rather than 2012 as originally scheduled. For more information, visit www.energy.gov.