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Museum’s Breakthrough Innovation

Owens Corning Thermafiber Solutions meets ambitious sustainability, performance and design goals

Owens Corning Case Study Jan18
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) reopened in May 2016 following three years of construction to make it the largest modern and contemporary art museum in America. The expansion project team, led by Norwegian firm Snøhetta, assembled a multidisciplinary roster of composites companies, architects and general contractors to meet ambitious sustainability, performance and design goals.

Owens Corning’s building science experts joined Corona, Calif.-based Canyon Insulation; Hayward, Calif.-based Res-Com Insulation Inc., insulation contractors; and American Canyon, Calif.-based Kreysler & Associates, custom fabricators; to consult on the project.

The Owens Corning team focused on cutting-edge applications of Thermafiber mineral wool insulation solutions needed to address fire containment, acoustical and thermal control and energy conservation in the exterior façade, interior walls and mechanical HVAC systems. The collaboration led to the use of four solutions, including Thermafiber RainBarrier 45, Thermafiber FireSpan 90, Thermafiber Safing, and Thermafiber VersaBoard 60.

Exterior Façade

The first step in creating the building enclosure was proving that the proposed fire-resistant (FRP) panels could pass the stringent NFPA 285 test requirements. Previously, FRP cladding had not passed the NFPA 285 standard fire test method for evaluation of fire propagation characteristics of exterior non-load- bearing wall assemblies and panels containing combustible components.

To address this challenge, custom fabricator Kreysler & Associates turned to Canyon Insulation and Owens Corning experts to achieve the signature façade. Together, the team devised the ultra-lightweight Fireshield 285 FRP solution using Owens Corning Thermafiber fire-resistant technology, expertise and solutions to create the first-ever Fireshield 285 FRP panel system to successfully pass the NFPA 285 fire test.

“This breakthrough represents the first major use of FRP cladding on a multistory building in North America and brings new flexibility to the future of commercial design for architects,” said William Kreysler, president, Kreysler & Associates. “We are excited to have pioneered this innovation in partnership with Owens Corning.”

A perimeter fire containment assembly was chosen using Thermafiber FireSpan and Thermafiber Safing to help achieve outstanding fire protection in compliance with building code fire requirements. 

Thermafiber RainBarrier 45 mineral wool insulation was specified in the open-joint façade to provide energy saving continuous insulation (ci) with critical fire resistive characteristics. The exceptional performance of Thermafiber RainBarrier 45 in rainscreen and cavity wall construction applications further helped the building breathe without sacrificing R-value. R-value is critical when managing interior thermal moisture levels needed to protect the art displayed in the galleries.

Owens Corning Thermafiber products were incorporated into the building enclosure to help meet the International Building Code (IBC) requirements for fire containment and deliver exceptional thermal performance and moisture control benefits.

Seamless Interior Choreography

With the 225,000-square-foot addition, the Snøhetta design team strived to create seamless integration between the interior and exterior spaces of the new and original brick-wrapped Mario Botta building.

A chief challenge for the interior design was addressing the highly sensitive temperature and humidity levels necessary to preserve works of art showcased in the museum. Given the additional energy usage typically required to maintain this balance, the team needed solutions that would keep the project on track to meet the sustainability and energy efficient goals for the building and meet U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold standard.

Working closely with Res-Com Insulation, Owens Corning recommended Thermafiber mineral wool insulation product solutions to help maximize the building’s efficiency across thermal, acoustical and mechanical systems. Thermafiber VersaBoard 60 insulation was selected to help optimize acoustical and thermal control in the exposed and unexposed mechanical spaces as well as the penthouse. Engineered to repel moisture and provide a combination of fire resistive characteristics, enhanced acoustical performance, thermal insulation, and energy conservation, the multipurpose Thermafiber VersaBoard 60 insulation delivered on each of the strategic interior design priorities.

To further support interior fire safety, Thermafiber Safing insulation was also cut and installed into the top of the fire-rated wall assemblies for mechanical and electrical fire rated penetrations.

Thanks, in part, to the building science innovation incorporated throughout the design, the SFMOMA renovation has been heralded as an architectural masterpiece that merges both form and function to achieve new standards in fire safety, durability, performance and sustainability goals.

Angela M. Ogino is the technical services leader for Wabash, Ind.-based Thermafiber Inc., an Owens Corning company. Ogino has over 19 years of experience in the mineral wool and firestopping industry, providing engineering judgments and technical assistance on mineral wool product performance for architects, building officials and contractors in the fire containment area. For more information on the Owens Corning Thermafiber mineral wool insulation solutions featured in the SFMOMA renovation, visit