New Mexico is well on its way to hosting the world’s first commercial passenger spaceport as Foster + Partners’ Spaceport America was dedicated this weekend. A partnership between the state of New Mexico and Virgin Galactic, the first-of-its-kind building is chock-full of state-of-the-art energy-saving features. Unfortunately, on the heels of the much anticipated project is a study showing that the fuel used for the space vehicles based there could significantly contribute to global warming. Turns out the spaceport, one of America’s greenest buildings, will be home to one of its dirtiest forms of transportation.
Located near the city of Las Cruses, the projected LEED Platinum building uses site-appropriate design and deeply integrated technologies to reduce its energy consumption. The low-profile building rises from the ground like a small hill and is made from locally sourced materials. Visitors enter though a passage cut into the terminal’s embedded mass. On either side, a series of earth tubes precondition the interior’s air and a ground-source heat pump helps reduce HVAC needs by a substantial 50-70%.
At the core of the facility is a large solar thermal and electric array which also allows light to penetrate to the lower hangers. A series of apertures dot the roof, allowing more natural light throughout the facility. Since it’s located in a desert, houses large equipment, and a large volume of people produce heat within the facility, it uses chilled beams in the public areas, radiant in-floor cooling, and displacement cooling in the large hangar to reduce energy demand. Natural ventilation takes care of the rest of the cooling needs. Water catchment, thermal mass, low-energy embedded materials and a slew other features ironically keeps the building well grounded.
The facility is expected to offer at least two space flights a day. Unfortunately, considering the overall environmental impact of the operation, could this incredible building simply be green window dressing?