Swinerton In the News

September 26, 2014

Nasa Sustainability Base, California, United States of America

Nasa's Sustainability Base also called the Nasa N232 Collaborative Support Facility is newly opened, and is the greenest federal building and one of the most sustainable buildings in the country.

The project is part of the Nasa's Renovation by Replacement (RbR) programme, initiated in 2007 to replace old and inefficient buildings. Ames Research Center won the competition against ten other centres of the agency.

The Sustainability Base is named in honour of the Tranquility Base, the site on moon where astronaut Neil Armstrong landed Apollo 11. Construction of the facility was started in August 2009 and was completed in April 2011. The 50,000 square feet project is estimated to have cost $25m.

The building was designed by a team at Nasa Ames Research Center in collaboration with William McDonough + Partners. It achieved the US Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification in April 2012. It is expected to become a prototype for the future green buildings.

Sustainability and 'green' features of the N232 Collaborative Support Facility

Floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights on the upper floor and computer operable automated windows reduce the requirement of artificial lighting to only 40 days in a year. Energy consumption of the building is displayed in real-time on an LCD screen in the lobby.

The building consumes 75% less energy than a typical office building and generates excess power. Photovoltaic arrays installed on the roof and across the site contribute to 30% of the total energy requirements. A small wind turbine and a solid oxide fuel cell generate the remaining energy. Single-ply cool roof and radiant cooling panels on ceilings reduce the cooling requirements.

An underground geothermal system, consisting of 99 140ft-deep wells, control the air conditioning. It relies on 5,000 sensors which measure light and carbon dioxide across the building. Room temperature is maintained by pumping cold water through copper tubes in the ceilings. The central computer of the facility can operate the windows, shades and overhead lighting based on the requirements. Patios are installed with thin solar photovoltaics for charging mobiles.

About 90% of the potable water consumption is saved through dual plumbing, ultra-low-flush fixtures and using recycled grey water for irrigation. The design emphasises on cradle-to-cradle design to eliminate any discharge of wastes, and the biophilia principle.

Oak flooring, recycled and non-toxic materials were used for the interiors. Every staff member has an energy dashboard portraying energy consumption and conservation activities adoptable by individuals.

Collaborators and contractors involved with Nasa's USGBC-certified base

Nasa awarded a $20.6m construction contract for the Sustainability Base to Swinerton San Francisco, in July 2009. The MEP, interior design, structural, civil engineering consultant and architect of record was AECOM. Siteworks Studio was the landscape architect. Loisos + Ubbelohde was the daylighting, lighting and energy consultant.

Research collaborators involved in the building technologies include Integrated Building Solutions, Impact Technologies, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Building Technologies Department, University of California Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus and Mission Critical Technologies. SunPower supplied the photovoltaic panels, while Bloom Energy supplied the energy server.

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