Rethinking space on earth: NASA and sustainable buildings
The Mars Rovers, Opportunity and Spirit’s mission planning software contributed to the technologies which were developed for this mind-bogglingly ambitious building project, producing what may be the most sophisticated environmental control system on the planet.
This project won a major, highly coveted US Government award for Green Innovation.
Here’s the official news release:
NASA Ames Honored for New Green Building
NASA’s Sustainability Base, a candidate for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum-certified office building being constructed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is the winner of this year’s U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Real Property Award in the category of Green Innovation.
The GSA Office of Government wide Policy recognizes creative and original ideas in its announcement of annual Real Property Innovation Award winners.
The award category, Green Innovation, recognizes an innovation or idea with clear potential to transform the federal community’s overall energy and environmental performance, in keeping with the goal of Executive Order 13514 to design federal buildings for “zero-net energy consumption” by FY 2030, starting in FY 2020.
“This GSA award recognizes Sustainability Base as a model for future federal facilities to achieve extremely high levels of energy and water efficiency. We seek to lead by example and provide lessons learned to others as we proceed.”
Steve Zornetzer, associate director at NASA Ames.
Sustainability Base won the award for a number of criteria, including original and innovative design, continuous monitoring of the building performance when completed, energy and water conservation approaches, and building replication for other locations.
Designed by William McDonough + Partners, this “two-story, two-wing” building, comprising approximately 50,000 sq.ft., will provide an efficient and aesthetically beautiful work environment.
In preparation for building occupancy, work pattern studies of approximately 225 civil servants and contractors are being conducted, so furniture systems and supporting equipment can be optimized to meet their unique needs.
To achieve this highest possible technical performance, Sustainability Base will use NASA-developed software systems that have been repurposed into a building environment.
These NASA technologies were originally developed for everything from aircraft control systems to mission planning for the Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit.
A suite of these NASA software tools will be used to carefully monitor the building’s environment.
When fully occupied and operational, this new facility will be one of the most carefully monitored buildings at NASA Ames.
A distributed wireless sensor network throughout the building will provide real time information to the intelligent adaptive control system.
Temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, light levels, noise levels, energy consumption, energy production, and the building’s system and subsystem health status will be monitored and evaluated to continuously balance occupant comfort and energy efficiency.
Accordingly, employees will be asked regularly about their comfort and experience in their new work environment. Sustainability Base also will serve as a living example of what is possible for both energy and water savings. This new building will be zero-net energy consuming and will use 90 percent less potable water than a conventional building of equivalent size.
“Working with the amazing team at NASA Ames, we saw an opportunity to look for something truly transformative. The result of this collaboration is a building design that demonstrates the highest possible technical performance, and will be a wonderful place to work—one that supports productivity, nurtures community, and celebrates connectivity.”
William McDonough, founding partner of William McDonough + Partners.
The facility will combine multiple features to accomplish this high-energy efficiency performance, including photo voltaic roof systems for power generation, geothermal wells for cooling and heating, optimized natural lighting, a high-efficiency building envelope and operable glazed floor to ceiling windows. A raised floor provides both easy and flexible utilities access and under floor natural ventilation.
To reduce water consumption, NASA will repurpose its water recovery system, originally designed as a sustainable, closed-loop system on long-term space missions, as a gray water purification system.
Long-term benefits of these new systems/technologies include reduced life-cycle maintenance and operational costs. Finally, the energy efficiency features in Sustainability Base can be widely replicated.
The natural environment principle, fundamental to this building’s new green design, optimizes passive energy efficiencies. This can be done in many locations and with many building designs for zero to minimal additional cost, according to Zornetzer.
“All these features will result in NASA’s Sustainability Base making a significant contribution to the President’s new requirements for the federal government to lead by example in energy efficiency,” said Zornetzer.