June 1, 2012

Project Spotlight: NASA Sustainability Base, Moffett Field, California

When the Ames Research Center hired William McDonough + Partners, it gave the firm two mandates to follow when building the first ground-up addition to its campus in 20 years: Illustrate NASA’s culture of innovation and exceed LEED Platinum criteria.

Daunting, perhaps, to any other firm who was looking to design the 50,000-square foot building in California’s Silicon Valley. But not to the Charlottesville, VA-based William McDonough + Partners with its longstanding focus on clean air, soil, water and power that is economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed.

“NASA is a client extraordinarily well positioned to embrace and support the idea I have been exploring for years: that design is the signal for human intention,” says founding principal William McDonough, whose Cradle to Cradle® philosophy, developed with chemist Michael Braungart, envisions projects from creation to eventual recycling.  The central concept: ecologically intelligent design can be part of human industry without sacrificing economic success.

Designed to be supportive of human health and well-being as well as highly effective in terms of energy and water conservation, the NASA sustainability base is the Federal government’s highest performing, most energy efficient building to date. “[Together] we created a concept, now realized as a building, that is NASA’s first space station on Earth, “ says McDonough.

Through greywater recycling, the building uses 90 percent less potable water than similar sized buildings. Outside, McDonough and his team created an appealing exoskeleton that’s significant because of its seismic capacities. It also “opens” the interior, allowing for nearly unlimited access to light and views.

“This building could be the first to truly demonstrate what “continuous improvement” means in the built environment,” says McDonough. “We feel lucky to have been tapped to be involved in the creation of this test bed for NASA technologies.”

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