A new building at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., has been described as “NASA’s first space station on earth,” by its designers at William McDonough + Partners. The structure exceeds LEED-Platinum and will provide a research platform for improved building design. According to William McDonough + Partners’ press release, the project will be a test bed for NASA technologies. NASA is working with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to monitor systems and data collection that will help the programmed systems at the Sustainability Base continuously improve over time. According to Stephen Selkowitz, department head of building technologies in LBNL’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, “This is an exciting and potentially groundbreaking building on many levels—design process, technology, systems integration, occupant focus, and smart operations.”

With some 5,000 sensors in the 50,000-square-foot building, systems are programmed to adjust heating, cooling, lighting, and other environmental elements such that when it warms up outside, windows will open and shades will lower automatically to block the sun.

The building will be the highest-performing federal building, producing more electricity than it uses and consuming 90% less potable water than any comparable structure. Sensors continuously keep track of carbon dioxide levels, air flow, and light settings, making adjustments as needed. William McDonough + Partners, pioneers in the cradle-to-cradle design philosophy, describe project innovations ranging from aggressive daylighting and natural ventilation design to in-depth materials screening. “The resulting building will be a flexible workplace filled with glare-free daylight, fresh air, and abundant connections to the outdoors, serviced by systems that will use only renewable energy.”

William McDonough, principal and founder of William McDonough + Partners, co-wrote Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press 2002). With Brad Pitt, McDonough co-founded Make It Right, a nonprofit devoted to building 150 cradle-to-cradle-inspired LEED-Platinum homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the neighborhood hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.