The new NASA Sustainability Base was designed by William McDonough + Partners to embody the spirit of NASA while fostering collaboration, supporting health and well-being, and exceed the requirements of LEED® Platinum with systems that will eventually use only renewable energy and closed-loop water maintenance facilities.

An exoskeleton approach provides for structural stability during seismic events, facilitates glare-free daylighting and shading, natural ventilation and connection to the outdoors, and flexibility of the workspace with its column-free interior.


Atop the two-story 50,000-square-foot building is a solid-oxide fuel cell and rooftop solar arrays, supplying the building with more energy than it requires and sending surplus electricity back into the grid where the Base is located at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Currently running on natural gas, the fuel cell is ready to be converted to landfill gas when a source is available.

Built on the site in a configuration of linked structures that was inspired by the nearby wind tunnel, the construction did not disturb existing growth of stone pine and heritage redwoods and allows for most workers in the building to depend on daylight about 80-90% of the time.

A central computer optimizes building performance and controls lighting, heating, and cooling, coordinating weather forecasts with scheduled usage of building facilities, adjusting its formulas to learn from itself based on how close it achieves desired goals.


“Once we’ve demonstrated the performance of the technology, I want to work with private-sector vendors,” said Steve Zornetzer, the associate center director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, in a press release, referring to the base’s forward-osmosis water-filtration system that recycles wastewater for use as gray water. “We’ll license the technology to them and say, ‘You guys develop this and you put it on the marketplace for consumers to buy. We can really bring advanced technology to the built environment and make a difference.”

As GreenSource stated, “Houston, We Have a Solution: NASA’s new base harnesses space-age technology to take building performance to the next level. It’s one giant leap for green design.”