NASA Sustainability Base

by rhoda on April 7, 2012

Part 1 of this story focuses on NASA’s Sustainability Base and Part 2 will tie it in with net-zero residential construction by 2020.

On April 5 2012, I attended a presentation on big data management in the energy sector at NASA Ames Research Center, sponsored by my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. Experts from both the public and private sectors (PG&E, CPUC, EMC, and Oracle among others) discussed the challenges of managing data on the smart grid along with energy issues facing the State of California and the country.

The audience was treated to an overview of NASA’s newest office building designed to meet LEED Platinum standards, “NASA Sustainability Base,” by Steve Zornetzer, Associate Center Director for NASA Ames. So what’s so exciting about a 210-person office building? This “cradle to cradle” design (C2C) generates more energy than it consumes, leverages NASA technology used on the space shuttle to conserve water, and uses new products that were developed on campus. It all began in 2007, when our Bay Area NASA Ames Research Center won a contest among the 10 NASA centers to replace antiquated buildings with energy-efficient ones.

Here’s a great video on NASA Sustainability Base that was posted on YouTube a couple of weeks after my original post:


Highlights include:

  • With NASA’s goal of advancing technology and innovation on our planet, the building is expected to obtain a LEED Platinum certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design which addresses numerous components of environmental design such as sustainability, water efficiency, energy consumption, indoor air quality etc… Learn more here: LEED at the United States Green Building Council.
  • Monitors placed throughout the building display how much energy the building is consuming. Eventually, the building will be able to look into the office space calendaring system and anticipate heating and cooling needs depending on its use (e.g. a vacant meeting room vs. one with fifty people).
  • All offices offer daylight (and operable windows). Energy usage from artificial lighting will be limited to 40 days a year.
  • As it costs about $80,000 to send a gallon of water into space, NASA has mastered the science of water conservation. With their space-age water-purification system onsite, the building uses 90 percent less potable water than a traditional building of comparable size and there is potential for even greater savings.
  • NASA Sustainability Base generates renewable power through solar panels, a fuel cell and a small wind turbine using local products such as the Energy Server from Bloom Energy and photovoltaic panels from SunPower. These Silicon Valley companies also had their first offices on the NASA property at Moffett Field.
  • Landscaping includes native plantings that are drought tolerant.
  • So how much does it cost to do green building and what is the burden on the taxpayer? NASA estimates that the additional initial costs of this building will be recouped in 9 years.

See Part 2: Residential Construction and Net-Zero 2020

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