OUT OF THIS WORLD—ON EARTH
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|Now that the space shuttle’s been put out to pasture, the NASA Sustainability Base, designed by William McDonough + Partners at Moffett Field’s Ames Research Center, may be closest that most folks can get to outer space. (Above, William McDonough, with Lt. Gov.Gavin Newsom at the dedication.) The project’s innovative exoskeleton design recalls the form of lunar modules and satellites, but it also serves a functional purpose. The exoskeleton was designed to provide a column-free space to increase workplace flexibility, as well as “to stabilize the building during earthquakes and facilitate repairs afterwards.” (And, since it’s on Earth, no one has to put on an astronaut suit and do a spacewalk.)|
|The Sustainability Base will be a testbed for the space agency’s technologies and partnerships. For instance, NASA is working with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs to monitor all the systems so that the building can be tweaked and improved over time. The Sustainability Base may be located on the Blue Planet, but it’s mighty green. Rated LEED Platinum, it goes beyond that to exemplify William’s philosophy that being "more good" is better and can result in positive footprints. He calls it a great example of why co-efficiency (being "less bad"), the conventional sustainable design thinking for many years, is not enough. Aiming for zero is like a “race to the bottom,” he says.|
|William with Ames Research Center associate director Steve Zornetzer. The project incorporates software developed by NASA for projects like the Mars Rover, adapted to monitor the building to provide real-time data. Does William’s philosophy sound a little Eastern? Could be from spending his early years in Hong Kong, his birthplace, and in Japan. He thinks this instilled an early appreciation for how everything can be seen as a nutrient. According to William, the resource effectiveness of those cultures back then were much different from the way Western cultures were handling things like water, energy, and food.|
|The Sustainability Base was designed to anticipate and react automatically to changes in sunlight, temperature, wind, and occupancy, optimizing its use as a high-performance building. William notes the federal government, like some in the private sector, is gradually seeing the value of shifting to a “more good” posture.|