NASA‘s First Space Station on Earth

NASA engaged William McDonough + Partners to design Sustainability Base, its first new construction in 20+ years, to show how a federal facility, with a tight schedule and conventional budget, could be a model of effectiveness and sustainability.

NASA Sustainability Base,
Moffett Field, California

Sustainability Base is named in recognition of the kinship between it and the first off-planet human outpost on the moon, Tranquility Base. The facility has earned LEED® Platinum certification, among the first federal installations to do so. NASA is applying its expertise derived from aeronautics, information technology and space exploration to the built environment, using Sustainability Base as a living laboratory to develop methods and tools for understanding and controlling dynamic energy and water systems here on Earth.

Sustainability Base effectively combines passive (hydronic geothermal) and active (heat exchangers, radiant ceiling tiles) heating/cooling and daylighting strategies to optimize energy use. On-site, a BloomBox® ES-5700 produces more electricity than peak demand. Roof-mounted SunPower® E-19 panels can produce 87kW, approximately 30% of annualized demand. Excess production is metered onto the local electrical grid at the Ames substation. Inside, technology developed for the International Space Station recycles sink/shower greywater for toilet flushes. Outside, irrigation uses locally remediated Superfund-site groundwater. Overall, Sustainability Base saves 90% of potable water over comparably sized facilities.

A rigorous materials selection protocol was implemented during the design and construction of Sustainability Base. First, Cradle to Cradle Certified™ products were used when available, cost effective and achievable through a competitive, tender process. When certified products could not be implemented, alternative products were evaluated by MBDC for their Cradle to Cradle Certified™ potential.


NASA Ames Research Center


Office Building


50,000 square feet


Completed 2012


William McDonough + Partners, Design Architect
AECOM, Architect of Record / Landscape Architect of Record / MEP / Structural / Civil
Loisos + Ubbelohde, Daylighting / Lighting / Energy Consultant
Swinerton, Contractor
Siteworks Studio, Design Landscape Architect
McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, Materials Assessment
TBD, Cost Estimator

Awards + Certifications

LEED® Platinum Certification
AIA Virginia Honorable Mention Award, 2019
Architectural Record 2014 Good Design is Good Business Award
Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), 2013 Sustainable Practices or Facilities
Acterra, 2013 Business Environmental Award, Sustainable Built Environment
Center on Environmental Innovation & Leadership, 2011 Leadership in Innovation Award
White House GreenGov Award 2011, Lean Clean and Green
ENR California, Best Projects of 2011, Award of Merit – Green Building
Silicon Valley Business Times’ Structures Awards 2010, Best Green Project
GSA Real Property 2010 Award for Green Innovation