NASA Ames Sustainability Base wins a 2013 GEELA Award for the category of Sustainable Practices or Facilities. The GEELA Program, which stands for Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Awards, is run by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA).
NASA’s first sustainable space “settlement” is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. “Using NASA innovations originally engineered for space travel and exploration, the 50,000 square-foot, lunar-shaped Sustainability Base is simultaneously a working office space, a showcase for NASA technology and an evolving exemplar for the future of buildings.” (Ames website). Through a combination of NASA innovations and commercial technologies, Sustainability Base leaves virtually no footprint.
In 2007, NASA held a ‘Renovation by Replacement’ (RbR) competition designed to replace antiquated and inefficient buildings with new, energy-efficient buildings. NASA Ames Associate Director, Steve Zornetzer was inspired by sustainability architect Bill McDonough to apply the closed-loop thinking that NASA uses in space exploration to a green building on Earth.
Sustainability Base is one of the greenest Federal buildings ever constructed. Although Sustainability Base isn’t a spacecraft, it was created with the vision that everything about the design would support both human and planetary well-being. As NASA Ames Center Director Pete Worden says, “This tiny planet we share is our only home.”
Power & Water
The building also generates generates most the power it needs through a variety of photovoltaics (solar panels), a highly efficient fuel cell and a small wind turbine. NASA spinoff Bloom Energy provided the advanced fuel cell.
Sustainability Base uses uses 90 percent less potable (drinking) water than a traditional building of comparable size. NASA achieves this through use of a forward-osmosis water recycling system designed for use on the International Space Station.
Information and Smart Systems
Sustainability Base uses a sophisticated array of technology to go beyond being a “smart building” and move into the realm of the intuitive. The building can anticipate and react to changes in sunlight, temperature and usage, and will be able to optimize its performance automatically in response to internal and external change.
Those who work at Sustainability Base are an integral part of keeping the building sustainable. Each individual has a personal dashboard that shows their energy usage at any given moment and even suggests energy conservation activities, as simple as lowering the shades or opening windows.