Friday, March 4, 2011

NASA's Green Light


Alert reader and longtime supporter Manuel Dornbusch of Munich, Germany, sent in a wonderful article about how a "Cutting-Edge NASA Research Center Goes Ultragreen", which described NASA's new "Green Building" – to be called "NASA Sustainability Base" when completed:

Ceiling panels that cool the air? Windows and shades that open automatically? A constant LCD display of energy Relevant Products/Services use? All this plus fresh air, solar and wind-turbine power, natural light, forward-osmosis recycled water (the same system installed on the International Space Station) and a passive geothermal system. For pictures of construction, see the "Multimedia" section of their official website.

NASA Sustainability Base
Yes, a building with a website of its own

The bottom line? A building they say is designed to produce more energy than it uses. Although perhaps a better term would be a "NET ZERO" system (before all the science brains out there start screaming about Newton's Law of Conservation of Energy en masse!) – because I'll admit that was one of my first thoughts before I read the details. ;)

As luck would have it, mere days after Manuel sent the link, I was able to visit the structure itself, currently under construction only yards from the NASA Ames Research Center Administration building. Before and after the Ames Tweetup, I drove around Sustainability Base to take photographs, now in my Picasa galleries. It looks like any other construction site, but is being touted as the "government's greenest building" according to the US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

The government's greenest building
The plan is to save taxpayer money and be as environmentally friendly as possible by lowering utility bills and bring federal building standards to a new high, per executive orders – and spokespersons say such a building wouldn't have been possible even five years ago.

Software monitor and adjust building temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide as well as light and noise levels in the 50,000-square-foot NASA gem, which will use 75% less energy and 90% less potable water than regular code-built structures.

NASA Ames Research Center Sustainability Base
Love the golf carts around the Green Building, but
shouldn't they be in the shape of mini-Lunar Rovers??

Can we truly create a building that not only doesn't "hurt" the environment, but actually benefit its surroundings? Time will tell. I suppose to anyone outside of California, anything costing over $20 million doesn't sound like such a bargain… approximately $400 per square foot? What sounds reasonable on the West Coast for real estate probably sounds insane anywhere else – but if the water and electricity bills wind up being as "non-existent" as planned, this structure will be a historical landmark in human construction.

NASA already has one prototype "green building" at Kennedy Space Center, the Propellants North Administrative and Maintenance Facility, which is described in this great SCV Television clip.