NASA’s space expertise means it’s virtually unmatched when it comes to creating efficient and sustainable environments for humans to live and work, and the innovative new office facility at their Ames Research Center near San Francisco is a showcase of intelligent and environmentally friendly design. Designed by William McDonough + Partners, the Sustainability Base draws on the latest in green architecture and (literally) space-age technology.
According to NASA, Associate Center Director Steve Zornetzer was “inspired by architect and sustainability pioneer Bill McDonough… to take the closed-loop thinking that NASA uses in space exploration and apply it to a green building on Earth.”
The 50,000 square foot facility utilizes an “exoskeleton” design that takes full advantage of its natural surroundings and local wind patterns, optimizing its use of daylight and natural ventilation. It also creates a user-friendly open floorplan for the 220 employees who will work there, and offers excellent stability and earthquake protection.
Energy efficiency is a top priority at Sustainability Base, and the facility is expected to produce all its own power as well as surplus electricity which can be channelled into the local power grid. Energy production will come from photovoltaic solar panels supplemented by a wind turbine, as well as a natural gas fuel cell that NASA hopes will eventually utilize methane captured from landfill waste.
A few highlights of the Sustainability Base include:
- Use of locally sourced materials like steel to reduce pollution from transportation
- Extensive recycling of waste materials (92% of construction waste was kept out of landfills)
- LEED Platinum certification (pending)
- “Graywater” irrigation system that uses reclaimed waste water
- “Bioswale” landscape features and plantings that filter rainwater runoff before it enters storm drains
- Geothermal ambient cooling system
- Computerized shades that maximize daylight while controlling solar heat gain
- Extensive use of recycled building materials and reclaimed wood flooring
It’s also worth noting that, although construction costs on the $20 million structure were slightly higher thanks to all the added technology, NASA should recover the difference within 10 years – at which point the facility will be a major cost-saver as well as energy-saver.
Construction on the facility is expected to be complete later this year.