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Earth NASA Hardware

NASA Unveils Greenest Federal Building In the Nation 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the green-space dept.
An anonymous reader writes "NASA just unveiled its new Sustainability Base — an exceptionally efficient building that harnesses technology developed for the International Space Station. The high-tech complex produces more energy than it consumes and it was just awarded LEED Platinum certification, making it the greenest federal building in the nation. The project features an extensive network of wireless sensors that allow the building to automatically react to changes in weather and occupancy and NASA's forward-osmosis water recycling system, which cuts water use by 90% compared to a traditional building."
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NASA Unveils Greenest Federal Building In the Nation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20, 2012 @04:30AM (#39743835)

    This should stick in the craw of those luddites that believe Space Tech doesn't have any use on Earth!

    • There will be no red or blue pixels on any display used in the building, and no greyscale shit either. Just imagine the glorious greenish glow from all those high-tech CRTs which can be got cheap from almost any landfill...

      • by Khyber (864651)

        "There will be no red or blue pixels on any display used in the building"

        Almost a hilarious statement considering my own field of 'green' tech.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday April 20, 2012 @05:12AM (#39744027)

    NASA's forward-osmosis water recycling system, which cuts water use by 90% compared to a traditional building.

    You are drinking your own urine.

    And whatever other urine they can find.

    On the plus side, the entire process renders the building water orange and tastes like Tang.

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday April 20, 2012 @06:03AM (#39744173) Journal

      You are eating someone's shit, breathing someone's farts, eating someone's rotting corpse and drinking someone's pee. Welcome to the wonderful world of nature. (Plants grow on fertilizer (shit), oxygen is the bad breath of plants, meat and plants are dead bodies, and every bit of water has been through someone's digestive track).

      Always strikes me as funny that people who would happily pay a fortune for the right to drink from a spring that a bear shat in but refuse to drink tap water that has been filtered and monitored to hell and back. You were made from dirt, eat dirt and will become the dirt in someone elses cycle of life. Enjoy!

      • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday April 20, 2012 @06:59AM (#39744405) Homepage
        And all of that effluent was forged in the heart of stars. It's a magical world.
        • Every element heavier than gold was made in a supernova.

          Boggles the mind.
          • by trout007 (975317)

            I could be wrong but I thought you could only get to Iron in a star.

            • Every element heavier than gold was made in a supernova.

              I could be wrong but I thought you could only get to Iron in a star.

              Is the latter not included in the former? >_>

              • by s73v3r (963317)

                Iron is lighter than gold, by quite a bit. I don't know if he was saying that iron, and everything heavier than it, were made in stars, in which case it would include gold, or that iron, and everything lighter than it were made in stars, in which case it would not include gold.

            • by dpilot (134227)

              Everything up to and including iron can come from normal fusion. To get past iron you need something more. I don't know if there are processes shy of a supernova to do that, but certainly a supernova does, and it wouldn't surprise me to find that there are other processes as well, though maybe more limited.

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        Always strikes me as funny that people who would happily pay a fortune for the right to drink from a spring that a bear shat in but refuse to drink tap water that has been filtered and monitored to hell and back.

        If you're talking about bottled water, it's probably from a municipal water supply, just in a different part of the country. But you're right that tap water in developed countries is safer, cleaner, and (according to blind taste tests) tastier than any other kind of water you can get.

        Most greywater systems focus on reusing the water for toilets. Who cares if it's safe to drink if you're just going to piss in it?

        • Disease can spread through grey water. Water spinkled in a garden can be breathed by passer's by. Therefore all water used in a city must be purified, else it is a very expensive health risk.
          • by Dasher42 (514179)

            That's why greywater recycling systems *don't* spray greywater. You pipe it at least twenty-two inches underground and distribute it to deeper root systems. An orchard is the typical endpoint for a three-way valve system diverting water from a laundry machine to the outdoors - and it works very well. The extra contents, provided you don't use salt-producing washing compounds, are actually very good for plants.

            This green stuff that works isn't your typical suburban stuff with a few tweaks, it's a deep re-

      • You are eating someone's shit, breathing someone's farts, eating someone's rotting corpse and drinking someone's pee. Welcome to the wonderful world of nature.

        Whoa there Gene Simmons, I didn't ascribe any positive or negative value to my observations.

        I would however just add that usually I'm drinking someone else's rotting corpse pee filtered many months/years/eons through nature though, not from an "in the can and back by ten" kind of system...

        Always strikes me as funny that people who would happily pay a

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Just like real astronauts. Also, you are wrong:

      This system stores all greywater [wikipedia.org] used in the building and processes it in an on-site treatment plant, reducing water consumption by 90% compared to a traditional building.

    • by bosef1 (208943)

      I've noted it before, and I'll note it again: "You can't pee into a Mr. Coffee and get Taster's Choice."

      • Have you every actually had Taster's Choice? I argue that your premise may actually be false, or at least that the product of the event may be indistinguishable from the normal brewing method.

      • by WillDraven (760005) on Friday April 20, 2012 @08:54AM (#39745241) Homepage

        Well, duh.

        Everyone knows that it's American BEER that's made of pee.

        Taster's Choice and other American Coffee are composed of charred feces.

        Can't be mixing up your excrements like that.

        • by s73v3r (963317)

          Everyone knows that it's American BEER that's made of pee.

          That's only true if you don't know anything other than beer that's advertised on TV.

    • No, that would be reverse osmosis. With forward osmosis, you are drinking the next girl's urine.
    • by Dasher42 (514179)

      I hate to break this to you: Every drop of water you've ever drank or bathed in has at one point been dinosaur piss. It's true. And all that great soil? Microbe or worm offal. And you can't live without it!

    • by tomhath (637240)

      I would hope the recycled water has a separate set of pipes that only supply the toilets. That would make a lot of sense in areas where water is scarce.

      Navy ships use sea water in the toilets. Kind of nasty looking in some places, but saves a lot of fresh water.

  • Aerospace Please (Score:2, Insightful)

    by elkto (558121)
    When there was a article posted about the NASA's bias against science to promote the Green agenda; someone remarked that NASA should stick to Aerospaceâ¦. I agreed with that; even if I knew from first hand knowledge of the bias.

    While I understand there is going to be spin off technologies from the Space program, I would rather they focus on their primary responsibilities.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday April 20, 2012 @06:57AM (#39744395) Homepage Journal

      While I understand there is going to be spin off technologies from the Space program, I would rather they focus on their primary responsibilities.

      You mean like Tang and velcro?

      If we're ever going to do human space exploration, this "green technology" could certainly pay off because people are going to have to carry everything they use. The line between what is and what is not "aerospace" is not as clear when you start to talk about long-distance space exploration by humans.

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      Among their primary responsibilities is to find efficient ways of sustainability for their space exploration.

      Also, is to release budget from the smaller one they have to reallocate money, what a better way to reallocate budget while doing relevant research.

      Why I don't understand is how wireless sensors are more green, if they probably require more energy to transmit through RF, than a regular wire. I'd have thought all their sensor network would be running over their AC lines instead, which could also
    • by s73v3r (963317)

      While I would love that too, the problem is that it costs a lot of money to go into space. Money that many people are seeming hesitant to give them, as they don't think they get anything out of it. Projects like these demonstrate the practical applications of technologies developed for space exploration, and hopefully make it much more attractive to fund them for more space exploration.

  • by ZaMoose (24734) on Friday April 20, 2012 @05:57AM (#39744157)

    The article claims it's the world's greenest building, but from the pictures it looks kinda blue, steely and clear for the most part.

    • by DesScorp (410532)

      The article claims it's the world's greenest building, but from the pictures it looks kinda blue, steely and clear for the most part.

      It's also ugly as sin.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday April 20, 2012 @05:58AM (#39744163)

    The first bio dome failed because the concrete consumed more oxygen then was previously believed. The facility never produced enough oxygen even to cure the concrete and thus couldn't be sealed.

    NASA should build a bio dome that can be sealed. People don't need to live in it all the time. Use airlocks so people can go home at the end of the day. The point is that the facility should produce enough air, clean water, power, and food to keep five or more people alive indefinitely.

    Once we can build such a facility we can theoretically set up bases on the moon or other planets. We might even consider keeping the plants alive entirely with artificial light since regular light cycles won't be useful on other worlds. We might have to turn geothermal energy into light or even use a fission reactor.

    I don't care if nasa built an environmentally friendly building. That has nothing to do with space exploration. Want to impress me? Build something that produces more oxygen then the occupants consume.

    • You missed a constraint: It needs to be tiny. Lifting mass out of the gravity well costs a fortune, so you need to get those people living in as small and light a biodome as possible.
      • I don't think that is the case. You probably wouldn't build the biodome on earth and then transport it to another planet.
      • Most building mass would I imagine be taken from the surface of the destination.

        More likely would be sealing off an underground cave or tunnel. Digging requires no more than the equipments mass. Sealing would require material for airtight foam.

        • Caves present survey problems. You need to make sure the cave is stable and isn't going to come crashing down once people and equipment start banging around. Trivial for a human team, but a real challenge when all you have are robots. Even worse if you're going any further than the moon and have to deal with light-lag.
          • by s73v3r (963317)

            If all you have are robots, though, then why would you need a cave? Have the robots build the structure and get the plants started. Then humans can come with life support systems and take over.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday April 20, 2012 @07:07AM (#39744441) Homepage Journal

      I don't care if nasa built an environmentally friendly building. That has nothing to do with space exploration.

      Another genius.

      "Green" means something besides "environmentally friendly". It means "sustainable", too. And if human beings are going to be traveling really long distances in space, more than just "fly to the moon and fall back", then sustainability is going to be a big part of the technical hurdle that needs to be overcome.

      Want to impress me? Start a permanent colony on another planet or outside of the solar system (not you, Karmashock, I mean NASA, but you are welcome to try). But even with this perfect dome you want NASA to build, they better have conservation down to a science, which NASA is trying to do, to their credit.

      • by DesScorp (410532)

        And if human beings are going to be traveling really long distances in space, more than just "fly to the moon and fall back", then sustainability is going to be a big part of the technical hurdle that needs to be overcome.

        And if we actually had the technology to take humans long distances in space, that might matter. But we don't, and it doesn't. There will be no Mars landing in our lifetime. And humans going to any other world other than Mars? Get back to me when someone actually learns to make that wormhole.

        This building has nothing to do with space exploration, and everything to do with the government's greener than thou initiatives.

      • Show me one thing they did with this building that was both new and applicable to building a colony on another world.

        ONE thing.

        And then tell me why they couldn't have done that in small scale to prove the science rather then building it into their swanky new crib at 10000 times the cost of an experiment.

        You want to talk about concervation and sustainability? How about conserving your budget and sustainably managing your programs so that you can do decent science and discovery?

        If you can't manage these progr

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      The first bio dome failed because the concrete consumed more oxygen then was previously believed.

      And here I was thinking it was because Pauly Shore wasn't funny.

    • With current environmental policies there will be applications for that biodome right here on Earth...

    • The first bio dome failed because the concrete consumed more oxygen then was previously believed. The facility never produced enough oxygen even to cure the concrete and thus couldn't be sealed.

      That's the cause of the operational failure.... The overall cause of the failure is more subtle and quite relevant here - the Biosphere ultimately failed because a) it was designed in accordance with ecological and philosophical philosophies*, and b) it was operated in accordance with ecological and philosophical p

    • by s73v3r (963317)

      I don't care if nasa built an environmentally friendly building. That has nothing to do with space exploration.

      Actually, it does. Much of the technologies used in the building were technologies first developed for use in space, where resources are extremely scarce, and need to be used sustainably.

  • If they want to be even greener, why not save more water and reduce the volume of waste discharged into the sewers? Not stopping at using the recycled grey water for flushing urinals and toilets, but providing waterless urinals in the mens rooms and urine separating toilets in the womens rooms. Maybe going even further and collecting the urine from the (waterless) urinals and urine separating toilets and processing it separately (eg as fertiliser) rather than discharging it into the sewerage system.

  • Lies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AdrianKemp (1988748) on Friday April 20, 2012 @06:33AM (#39744295)

    From NASA's site it looks like the majority of power comes from an on-site fuel cell.

    That's a bit like me building a big garage, installing a big-ass natural gas generator and saying my building returns power to the grid.

    Now yes, fuel cells are better than natural gas, but it's still not the building producing it's own power. It's a small power plant on the same lot as the building

    • by mjr167 (2477430)
      Shush. We have no place for you facts here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From NASA's site it looks like the majority of power comes from an on-site fuel cell.

      That's a bit like me building a big garage, installing a big-ass natural gas generator and saying my building returns power to the grid.

      Now yes, fuel cells are better than natural gas, but it's still not the building producing it's own power. It's a small power plant on the same lot as the building

      Bloom boxes (the fuel cells mentioned in the article) use natural gas as well. Then it's only question about the efficiency (in regards to CO2 and emissions).

      Fuel cells might be the most efficient method of producing electricity in small scale, but in larger scale they tend to lose to bigger plants... for now (potential is higher though). Bloom boxes are rated for 100 kW and 200 kW approximately, with > 50% electrical efficiency. Gas turbines, gas engines can achieve this, but only in larger scale, thus

    • by Bigby (659157)

      So Hoover Dam is the greenest building...

    • That's a bit like me building a big garage, installing a big-ass natural gas generator and saying my building returns power to the grid.

      LEED doesn't recognize natural gas, coal, or large-impact hydro (like Hoover Dam) as sources of renewable energy. So while you could still LEED certify you're building with a natural gas harvester, or a coal fired power plant, or an oil rig (assuming the oil rig isn't movable and has a mailing address per the LEED minimum project requirements), you will have to do so without achieving the "On-site renewable energy" credit.

      Also that being said, LEED projects are based on a theoretical energy modeling prot

  • by fatphil (181876) on Friday April 20, 2012 @06:58AM (#39744403) Homepage
    Is meaningless, or at least misleading. A coal power station produces more energy than it consumes. If that's intrinsically green, then we should be building more coal power stations.
  • Considering all the posts complaining about, "Why is NASA fooling with this "green" hippie bullshit", I just noticed the following headline on another site,

    Apple Vows to Build '100% Renewable Energy' Data Center

    Now watch the quick 180 about how "innovative" and "forward-thinking" it is that Apple is working toward sustainability from many of the same people who were criticizing NASA's green initiative.

    • I kind of think if NASA built the structure anywhere other than Earth, it would have a very positive "impact."
  • The high-tech complex produces more energy than it consumes...

    Pfft. Big deal. This applies to all coal fire plants as well.

    • by ledow (319597)

      I think you'll find that a coal fire plant consumes a lot more energy than it produces and that this energy intake is in the form of, well, coal.

      If it didn't, we wouldn't need the coal, because we'd have just invented perpetual energy.

  • standard. most buildings will qualify for leed silver by just being near train stations/public transportation outlets and ensuring they have adequate fluorescent lighting and recycling services for paper.

    its also saying nothing of its inhabitants. The building I work in still has a 4 story parking garage despite its overwhelmingly generous access to several forms of public transportation. And despite a vigorous recycling program, I still see styrofoam in the kitchen, lots of disposable plates, and co
  • The building was on the Moon? Then NASA could stop watching re-runs of its glory daze. Maybe one day NASA will accept Google Lunar X Prize [slashdot.org] challenge?

    "Go Team." - Unknown
  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Friday April 20, 2012 @10:41AM (#39746407)

    I wonder if this new building really is a new building, or is it an "extension?"

    Some snips from Wayne Hale, former Space Shuttle program manager
    http://waynehale.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]
    Construction of Facilities, February 26, 2012

    A long standing federal law states that any new buildings must be approved by the Congress; any new building must be its own separate line item in the Federal Budget. This is to make sure that the legislators know exactly what is being built on Federal property; to ensure that money is properly spent and not wasted. ...officers and enlisted, who served at Fort Laramie in the late 19th century.

    Every year the post commander would propose building 4 or 5 new officer’s houses, and every year Congress would strike those line items from the Federal budget. No new houses. Until one year, he had a really ingenious idea. He proposed that since the army was often in the field pursuing the “hostiles” that the government should construct four “field kitchens” to feed the men. Then, the commandant used the maintenance budget and the free labor of the troops during the winter months to build “extensions” on those “field kitchens”.

    True in the 1880’s, true in the 1990’s, and still true today; it is no so much following the rules as it is finding a way to get what needs to be done in spite of the rules.

    In fact, in Federal installations all around the country, I have encountered “additions” that were bigger than the original building. Makes you wonder about the effectiveness of a rule that was probably written in the 18th century.

    So my advice to anybody trying to get things done in the byzantine maze of Federal regulations is to get creative. There is almost always a way to accomplish the mission in spite of the obstacles. Sometimes it pays to study history because other clever people have gotten their mission accomplished by perfectly legal and legitimate ways to work through the regs.

    for more see, http://waynehale.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com] Construction of Facilities, February 26, 2012

  • The great thing about using Flash to announce your research goals is that outsiders can't use copy and paste to actually discuss them, or worse yet, make a backup copy to embarrass you when all those dreams of using Computational Fluid Dynamics to reduce energy waste and advanced greywater recycling tech to reduce water usage turn out to be little more than PR fluff. No, just retroactively alter the goals to reflect dismal reality.

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