Lift off for NASA’s greenest building

American space agency NASA has unveiled plans for a cutting edge new green building it is describing as the "first lunar outpost on Earth".

The $20.6 million (£12.7 million) environmentally-friendly building at NASA’s Ames Research Centre will be called Sustainability Base in homage to Tranquillity Base – site of the Apollo 11 moon landing 40 years ago.

NASA held a ceremonial groundbreaking and dedication event for what it claims will be the country’s greenest government building last Tuesday (August 25).

S Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames Research Centre, said: “This is a great day for NASA and the federal government.

“This new building represents NASA’s commitment to sustainability and improving the quality of life on the planet.

“Given the incorporation of the very latest NASA technologies, I like to think of it as the first lunar outpost on Earth.”

The two-storey, 50,000 square foot building at the research centre in Moffett Field, California will use technology developed from space missions.

Sustainability Base is intended to power itself with net zero energy consumption.

It will use 90 per cent less water than conventional buildings of equal size.

It will be powered by some 20,000 square feet of roof-top solar panels and ground-source heat pumps from 72 geothermal wells, acknowledged as among the most efficient way to heat and cool buildings.

Sophisticated control systems described by NASA as “intelligent, intuitive, cognitive” will ensure the building runs environmentally efficiently.

They will be able to access workers’ electronic calendars to predict how many people will be in the building and adjust heating and cooling accordingly, it is understood.

A network of sensors will react to changing weather conditions – sunlight, temperature and wind – to maximise the building’s performance.

Steven Zometzer, NASA Ames associate director, said: “When the Apollo astronauts looked back and saw the Earth it was such an astounding image that it served as a touchstone for the whole environmental movement.

“In the spirit of what’s best for our country, we decided to focus on constructing the most energy-efficient building possible.”

The new building is designed to achieve a platinum rating, the highest under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for environmentally sustainable construction developed by the US Green Building Council.

Construction is due for completion by the end of 2011.

David Gibbs

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