Gallery: NASA’s New LEED Platinum Sustainability Base is the Greenest F...

Plan by McDonough + Partners
NASA Sustainability Base plan by McDonough + Partners.

Situated at Moffet Field in Mountain View, California, the $25 million NASA Sustainability Base features a front facade that takes design cues from the International Space Station. At a media unveiling today Green architect and Cradle to Cradle founder William McDonough explained that his team sought to design a building that was “native to place” – meaning that it was carefully designed to suit its site while maximizing efficiency and actually creating a positive impact upon the environment. The 50,000 square-foot structure was built from the ground up to meld with its surrounding environment and make the most of available daylight, natural ventilation, and shading.

The building’s relatively narrow 54-foot width allows daylight to reach the middle of each floor, and the entire building is wrapped in an exoskeleton that provides shade while allowing light and air to flow inside the building. This exoskeleton also provides great seismic stability and allows the interior to have a column-free floor plan.

Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat

The Sustainability Base’s green program extends to its site, which is planted with native California plants and drought-tolerant species. On-site bioswales help filter pollution and ease rainwater runoff, and a series of 99 geothermal heat wells in a nearby field help to regulate the building’s temperature. The water underground stays at a relatively stable 58 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is pumped through a series of panels in the building to cool it in the summer and warm it in the winter.

NASA is known for its cutting edge technology, and its new Sustainability Base is a test bed and proving ground for some of its most impressive systems. The complex features an incredibly efficient forward-osmosis water recycling system based upon a design created for the International Space Station. This system stores all greywater used in the building and processes it in an on-site treatment plant, reducing water consumption by 90% compared to a traditional building. The building is also powered by a massive Sunpower photovoltaic array that can produce 85 KW during peak hours, an emission-free Bloom Energy fuel cell, and a small wind turbine.

The building’s interior is outfitted exclusively with nontoxic recycled and recyclable materials. The white oak flooring on the ground level was reclaimed from an old wind tunnel dating back to 1953, and the building’s Cradle to Cradle certified Steelcase furniture is designed for disassembly and easy recycling. An abundance of skylights dot the top story of the base, allowing so much light to flood the floor that it only needs artificial lighting about 40 days per year. Meanwhile, manually operable windows are set below a bank of computer controlled windows that automatically open and close to regulate the building’s interior climate.

+ NASA Sustainability Base

+ William McDonough + Partners


Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat


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  1. Nathaniel Ross May 2, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Fantastic coverage of a groundbreaking building. Now, if only our cities’ architects could follow suit!

  2. nasaslame April 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    So, instead of our MoonBase we get another SubUrban office building…

    Thanks NASA.

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