In Progress: NASA Sustainability Base / William McDonough + Partners and AECOM

© William McDonough + Partners

Designed for approximately 200 people the new facility optimizes passive design strategies and is projected to demand only 12% of the electrical power and only 10% of the potable water that a conventional, code-compliant building would demand. All irrigation is provided by recycled and reclaimed water. The NASA Sustainability Base is a two-story 50,000 sqf building that is scheduled to be completed this spring with occupancy expected in May.

Design Architect: William McDonough + Partners Architect of Record, Structural Engineering, Civil Engineering: AECOM Daylighting, Lighting, Energy Consultant: Loisos + Ubbelohde Landscape Architect of Record: EDAW Landscape Architect: Siteworks Materials Assessment: MBDC Wastewater Treatment: Todd Ecological

This exemplary energy performance will be achieved through several strategies and technologies, including an extensive geothermal system, high performance lighting, radiant cooling, intelligent building systems and on-site photovoltaic energy generation and active solar systems. (The PV system installation is set to happen in April 2011, and NASA expects the system to be operational by the end of that month. The expected power generated by the rooftop PVs is 122,000 kWh per year.)

© William McDonough + Partners

It is projected (by the NASA client team) that with the installation of the next generation fuel cell that will eventually use landfill biogas, the building will generate 20% more energy than it will consume on an annual basis.

Access to daylight and views is an important element of this project; studies have shown that people who have such access tend to be healthier and more productive over time. (This relates to biophilia—the science of how the human body responds to natural cycles or lack thereof.) Daylighting is optimized by the building’s narrow floor plate, glare control strategies, high ceilings, and the building orientation.

© William McDonough + Partners

The column-free spans that contribute to daylight permeating deep into the space were enabled by the use of the structural exo-skeleton (which also provides increased performance and ease of repair after seismic events, and acts as an armature for building shading). Natural ventilation is another aspect of the project that has direct links to human health and well-being. Individual temperature control is another health- and happiness-related feature.

The overall materials goal is to design a building that uses safe, healthy materials in ways that maximize material lifespan and whose components can be returned safely to soil or to industry for reuse at the same level of quality. The approach to materials is divided into two main goals: maximize material value, and eliminate materials going to landfill.

Maximizing material value means choosing materials with environmentally-aware production processes and content, using them in ways that match longevity to lifespan, and reducing the overall volume of materials needed to construct buildings all serve to maximize the environmental, social and economic value of each material used.

To eliminate landfill flows, a number of tactics were employed: Design for Disassembly. Materials can only be recaptured if they can be easily taken apart. As the project moves into later phases, the intent is to design the building to be disassembled. Already, the selection of steel over concrete structure, and the componetizing of the exterior wall, lends itself to disassembly detailing. Material Assessment: Disassembly is only effective if what is being disassembled is made up of safe, healthy and recyclable materials. Flexibility and Anticipatory Design. The building anticipates future (or current) PV technology by ensuring good solar access and orientation, providing conduit and room for inverter panels. Other tactics help to anticipate unknown changes in the future: dual-plumbing, raised floors that allow for easy recabling and reconfiguration, high floor to floors, and window wall design that allows for multiple interior configurations. All of these tactics make the NASA Sustainability Base a more adaptable, and less likely to require major renovation to meet changing needs.

© William McDonough + Partners

The project team, assessed products, buildings materials for nutrient potential so that they can return safely to soil as nutrition or to industry for reuse at high levels of quality. The product analysis examined products within the categories of Human Health, Ecological Health, Nutrient Potential, Recycled/Renewable Content, and Embodied Energy and used this framework:

© William McDonough + Partners

• prefer Cradle to Cradle Certified products/materials that are characterized as either biological or technical nutrients • identify products/processes to optimize and work with manufacturers • preferring Materials Designed for disassembly and recapture • maximize Available Cradle to Cradle products within the building skin for disassembly and recapture

Some of these products include— • CENTRIA, Formawall™ Dimension Series® – Insulated metal Panels • Kawneer 1600 Wall System® – Curtain Wall System • PPG Industries, Inc., Architectural Glass Solarban 70XL™ Glazing Systems

Product selection actively support the health and well-being of the employees. • Create beautiful and uplifting spaces • Celebrate daylighting, experience of circadian rhythms • Provide fresh, clean air • Assess effects of materials, environments on health and choose those with positive impacts • Regenerate site and regional ecosystems through healthy water flows, habitat creation, and increased biodiversity.

This building is designed to be substantially more efficient and effective than a conventional building (for the government or the commercial sector). The whole team is very proud that the desire to innovate has resulted in a project that is on target to achieve a LEED Platinum rating from the USGBC.

© William McDonough + Partners

We believe that “race for greenness” very often ineffectually compares vastly different projects and, more importantly, often results in green-washing. This team and client should be celebrated for their commitment to a deeply integrated design process that enabled a remarkably fast schedule. The design team engaged in an intensive fast-track effort; the three-month concept and schematic design phase included significant analysis to inform the developing building design while serving as the basis of design for the later phases of project development.

NASA Sustainability Base is the winner of the 2010 U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Real Property Award in the category of Green Innovation. The GSA Office of Government wide Policy recognizes creative and original ideas in its announcement of annual Real Property Innovation Award winners. The award category, Green Innovation, recognizes an innovation or idea with clear potential to transform the federal community’s overall energy and environmental performance, in keeping with the goal of Executive Order 13514 to design federal buildings for “zero-net energy consumption” by FY 2030, starting in FY 2020.

“This GSA award recognizes Sustainability Base as a model for future federal facilities to achieve extremely high levels of energy and water efficiency,” said Steve Zornetzer, associate director at NASA Ames. “We seek to lead by example and provide lessons learned to others as we proceed.”

© William McDonough + Partners

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Cite: Kelly Minner. "In Progress: NASA Sustainability Base / William McDonough + Partners and AECOM" 07 Mar 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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