NASA 'Sustainability Base' to be net zero energy

NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley breaks ground on green building inspired by self-sustaining systems and technology developed for space programs.

Project managers, architects, NASA officials, and Lt. Governor John Garamendi break ground Tuesday on Sustainability Base, a new building at NASA Ames Research Center, which will showcase sustainable technologies. James Martin/CNET

After decades of developing technology to explore space, NASA is bringing its expertise in self-sustaining systems back to Earth.

The NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for Sustainability Base, a research center that will be a net zero energy building .

A dedication plaque, written on a solar panel, at the site of Tuesday's Sustainability Base groundbreaking. James Martin/CNET

The project aims to be a proof-of-concept for sustainable design and a number of green technologies developed at NASA.

The building will be powered by ground-source heat pumps from 72 geothermal wells, considered the most efficient way to heat and cool buildings.

There will be solar hot water collectors and a network of sensors to react to changing conditions, such as sunlight, temperature, wind, and energy usage. Data on the building's mechanical systems can be monitored via a Web-based console.

NASA expects that the "high-performance building" will cut water usage by 90 percent compared to an equivalent-size building. NASA also hopes to significantly reduce maintenance costs. The structure itself will be built on top of steel frames and use natural daylighting extensively.

NASA had contracted the architecture firms of famed "cradle to cradle" William McDonough and Swinerton Builders was hired to complete construction on the project.

The $20.6 million building is expected to be completed by the end of 2011. NASA expects to get the Platinum level LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the highest level.

Three of the people who spoke at Tuesday's event: June Grant, architect at AECOM Design, left; Simon P. "Pete" Worden, NASA Ames Center director, center; and Lt. Governor John Garamendi, right. James Martin/CNET

Updated at 4:00 a.m. PT to clarify roles of architecture firms.

 

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