Nasa's Sustainability Base

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It was July 20, 1969 when Apollo mission commander and Lunar Expedition Module pilot Neil Alden Armstrong spoke the first human words emanating from another world, “Houston, Tranquility Basehere. The Eaglehas landed.” The American astronaut apparently coined the term naming his craft’s landing site in the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.

Over forty years later, NASA has — with good reason — named its new office building being constructed at the Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California’s Silicon Valley Sustainability Base. NASA has also cleverly positioned this new and innovative office structure as its ‘next giant leap’. A product of the space agency’s “Renovation by Replacement’ campaign begun in 2007, the building is expected to be completed by mid-July 2011.

Everyone involved in the development of this building — and there are quite a few agencies, firms, consultants and individuals —  is targeting Platinum status (the highest possible rating) under the Leadership in Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. To reach that top tier, the $20-million structure will attain or exceed net-zero status. It will, for example, end up generating more electricity than it actually uses. Sustainability initiatives incorporated into the project include relatively narrow floor plates to allow daylight penetration to all interior spaces, freshwater consumption driven to a mere fraction of average office structures of today, materials locally sourced to minimize their ‘embodied energy’, substantial use of fresh air ventilation, ample green space on-site, and recycling of almost all of the project’s expected construction waste.

In addition to the architectural firms of William McDonough + Partners and AECOM, the building’s planning and design team has included NASA Ames’ managers tasked with strategic infrastructure, bioengineering, technology partnerships, operations, and research collaborations, as well as the consulting firm Loisos + Ubbelohde. Other collaborators on various aspects of the project are Integrated Building Solutions, Impact Technologies and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.

Sustainability Base will provide its several hundred NASA employees and affiliated contractors with open and airy, column-free workspaces. Offices are arrayed around the several stories of the gently curved building (which NASA has somehow construed as ‘lunar-shaped’!). Within the multi-story lobby, a large display will continually inform workers and visitors as to the energy efficiency of Sustainability Base, as will each employee’s own sustainability ‘dashboard’.

Thus this new and innovative structure will reaffirm NASA’s long-standing commitment to applied technology in service to Earth’s critical challenges, as well as those beyond our atmosphere.   

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