Good afternoon. I’m Calvin Williams, the Chief Sustainability Officer at NASA. My other official responsibility is Assistant Administrator for the Office of Strategic Infrastructure. That means I’m in charge of managing risk relating to various kinds of assets at NASA. My office has to make sure we have the right infrastructure, in the right place, at the right time. This is the Vehicle Assembly Building down at Kennedy Space Center. This is where we assemble rockets with their space capsules prior to launch. You are standing on the floor, looking up at this yellow structure on the ceiling. It’s about 525 feet up to the ceiling or about 58 stories, if you had 9-ft ceilings. It’s not quite as tall as two Statue of Liberties stacked on top of each other. Needless to say, we only have one of these buildings. (Statue of L is 305 feet tall).
We have several different missions – space exploration, space technology, science, and aeronautics research. Those missions all demand some very unique types of infrastructure. Here are a few examples. This is a rocket test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, near New Orleans. You basically strap the rocket engine on to a very sturdy structure, the test stand, then fire the rocket engine to test its performance. For safety, there’s a big concrete fire containment apron, with a water quench system in case something unusual happens.
This is the outside of the VAB that I showed you on the first slide. I like this old photo, taken in Nov 1970 of a Saturn V rocket atop a crawler that will take the rocket to launch the Apollo 14 mission. The high bay doors alone on this building are amazing. [NOTE: Audience may have heard earlier about GWU Case Study involving use of bio-based lubricant on the tracks of the High Bay doors.]
These are astronauts training in a very specialized “pool,” which we call the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, at Johnson Space Center in Texas. Note the divers in the background. A crew of them is always on hand to help during the training sessions. You can probably guess that this “pool” has some unique features you won’t find in a regular backyard pool.
This thermal vacuum chamber, the largest in the world, is at Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Cleveland, Ohio. This enables us to run tests at temperatures like those experienced in space.
The upper left photo is a huge wind tunnel (the world’s largest) at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. A parachute to help with a Mars mission is being tested. If human beings are ever to fly faster than the speed of sound from one side of the country to another, we first have to figure out how to reduce the level of sonic boom generated by supersonic flight. On the right is a subscale model of a potential future low-boom supersonic aircraft designed by Boeing. Here, it is during testing in the supersonic wind tunnel at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
We need specialized facilities and assets for our Science mission too. We have a lot of data to analyze. Here we see a supercomputer at the top left and some visualization tools that help with our climate modeling.
The new James Webb Telescope, developed in collaboration with the European and Canadian space agencies, will replace the Hubble. These 18 gold-plated mirrors connect to form a mirror about 21 feet in diameter, six times the size of Hubble’s. Its development, construction, and testing require very specialized facilities. Launch is set for October 2018.
And now to a few issues. You may have seen this slide before. You can see in this chart that we have a lot of valuable assets …… sometimes not in the most ideal locations! About two-thirds of NASA’s constructed real property value is within 16 feet of sea level. Although all of our built infrastructure is subject to impacts of climate change, we’re very concerned about our many coastal facilities. From the upper left, this is Wallops Island, off the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We launch commercial rockets off this thin strip of land, sending many satellites into space from this location. At the right is Stennis Space Center and Michoud Assembly Facility, off the Gulf Coast. These are tremendously important to our exploration mission. You saw an earlier picture of a rocket test stand at Stennis. (And, yes, the big white blob is Katrina.) On the lower left is Johnson Space Center, also vulnerable to storms off the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay. And on the lower right is Kennedy Space Center, a great location with a perfect trajectory for launches. Unfortunately, sea level rise and tropical storms present risks here. This has been a serious focus for us and we could do a whole briefing on it. NASA started on climate risk management long before an Executive Order required that we do so because we are obligated to ensure that we have access to space.
Much our infrastructure, some of it from the Apollo Era in the 1960’s (over 50 years ago!) no longer suits the work we do. Assets that supported the now-retired Shuttle program don’t necessarily meet our current needs. You can see from this graph that only about 20% of our facilities assets are less than 40 years old. Functionality and fit-with-the-mission start diminishing at this point.
Even though NASA is pretty steady in reducing its energy consumption, the increases in unit cost way outpace these reductions. We’re fighting an uphill battle.
We have several ways to address these infrastructure issues. We have master planning and construction policies in place – to reduce energy use, reduce water consumption, address climate impacts, and site our facilities in good locations. Our minimum standard for new buildings has been LEED silver, and we’re working toward Zero Energy and Zero Water buildings.
Other info: We don’t yet have a Facilities Construction document that says “build this kind of roof on coastal areas, build this thickness of columns to withstand winds, etc. We’re still depending primarily on industry standards, but we are looking at the ways we site and build structures with an eye to future climate projections. We have climate projections for sea level change and temperatures for each of our Centers through the 2080s. We have a Sustainable Facilities course that includes a unit on climate change impacts.
And now a few examples of green infrastructure. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) completed construction of its new Building 4220, a sustainable office building earning LEED® Silver certification. A first for NASA, the building also garnered two Green Globe awards from the Green Building Initiative® in recognition of its many environmentally friendly features. The building houses the Space Launch System Program office. The 20,000 gallon underground cistern will store rainwater for use in irrigation.
This is the same building at Marshall. We’re using energy efficient lighting with occupancy and daylighting sensors, including vending machines. We’re using improved thermal envelope technologies that include high-efficiency glazing, large overhangs, and external shading devices. We’re lowering water usage, and any time you don’t have to push water around, you save energy. It uses 30% less energy and 30% less water than typical office buildings. And we’re also branching out in our renewable energy production, here using rooftop solar.
Background: This is a 75kW system providing about 150 MWh of renewable electricity annually
In early May 2016, LaRC dedicated its future Computational Research Center to Katherine Johnson, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient who worked at LaRC from 1953 – 1986. She was hired as part of a pool of women who performed mathematical equations and calculations by hand for engineers. She performed the computations, by hand, of the launch window and trajectory for Alan Shepard’s maiden space voyage aboard Freedom 7 in 1961. She also verified, again by hand, the calculations made by the first computers for John Glenn’s orbit around the Earth in 1962. The new building will be elevated above the 500-year floodplain (finished floor elevation of 15.5 ft) in order to adapt to expected sea level rise.
This is a picture of her in 1966; she came to the dedication in May 2016 and is an inspiration to us all. I just heard that a movie’s coming out in January (Hidden Figures) about her and other women working at NASA in our early years.
Broke ground spring 2015 Design-Build through USACE 40,000 sf building opening in fall 2016 Designed to consume 30% less energy and 20% less water than baseline building Consolidates 5 Data Centers and over 30 Server Rooms Power Usage Effectiveness rating of 1.5 or lower
We have a Net Zero Energy Buildings Roadmap that we commissioned from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, so that we will be prepared for the net zero energy buildings (NZEBs) requirement for new federal buildings starting in 2020, set forth in Executive Order (EO) 13514. First up is the Propellants North Facility at Kennedy Space Center.
KSC Propellants North: The facility will produce an estimated 150,000,000 watt-hours per year (150 megawatt-hours) through an 80-kilowatt array, integrating the two photovoltaic (PV) roof systems and a PV-covered electric vehicle charging canopy in the facility’s parking lot.
And now for a couple of more specific challenges. So…we’re following all the good practices, adding LEED buildings that reduce energy and water usage, and either installing or using more renewable energy sources. But we have a problem relating to the maintenance of our inventory. We’re still carrying some old antiquated buildings along with the new, technologically-advanced buildings. This demands an incredible range of skills from our Operations and Maintenance Personnel. It’s sort of like asking the same people to repair a 1954 Chevy sedan and the “Back to the Future” DeLorean.
And that’s what we have pictured here. The upper photo is the legacy Main Administrative Building at Armstrong Flight Research Center, built in 1954, (and yes, this is where some episodes of I Dream of Jeannie were filmed in the 60s). We’re still using this building. The lower photo is our new LEED Platinum Facilities Support Center at the same Center! So you can imagine the different skills required of our O&M folks. Clunky old boilers vs. finely-tuned, automated Building Management Systems. Here’s the background on this issue. We intentionally allow our Centers to manage their assets as they see fit, within guidelines established by Headquarters. This autonomy spurs creativity and a little healthy competition between Centers. But it also encourages Centers to hold onto those assets. AND, of course many of our unique capabilities are in those older assets. Sure, we can replace an office building with a much better, more sustainable office building. And we are. But some of our unique building inventory presents challenges. Again, here I’m emphasizing the issue with our Operations and Maintenance Personnel. We need to maintain the very experienced, high-school educated staff. And yet shift to more highly-trained personnel who can work with the systems engineer trying to eke out 2% energy savings on automated systems. All I can say for now is that we’re working it. If any of the rest of you are facing this I’d like to speak with you in the break.
And in a related issue, GAO periodically highlights the problem of Federal Agencies carrying excess and underutilized property. We’re included in that, guilty as charged. We have a plan officially titled “Real Properties Efficiency Plan” which everyone calls our “Reduce the Footprint” strategy. It’s a great strategy and we’re making some progress, but it’s slow going. We’re having a hard time shedding some of our older assets.
Some examples, the upper left photo is the iconic Hangar One out at Ames Research Center at Moffett Field. This picture is from 1934 when the USS Macon airship arrived from Florida. Hangar One on the right is pictured again, during a 2009 ceremony celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Moffett Field. The hanger on the lower left at Glenn Research Center in Ohio was built in the 1940s. We’re still using this building; it’s primarily a hangar for displaying some historic aircraft, but we also have a few offices and an avionics shop in it. Again, we intentionally allow our Centers to manage their assets as they see fit, within guidelines established by Headquarters. So we have Centers holding onto those assets. But those old facilities don’t necessarily meet our needs. And if they’re old buildings, the utility bills will be high and they won’t be the most pleasant spaces for our employees. Also, to “Reduce the Footprint” you have to take down buildings. This is expensive. In many cases, we “repair” old buildings by “replacing” them with new buildings. In these cases, demo costs are incorporated into the whole capital improvement project. But getting rid of the old, outlier buildings far from the “core” of each Center’s property, that’s another issue. How are we addressing it? One building at a time.
Despite these issues, I’m proud of the fact that we at NASA continue to push the envelope of sustainable building technologies here on our planet. I’m encouraged by the advancements we’ve made over the past decade. We still have some work to do with balancing our old and new building stock, but we’re getting there. Meanwhile, we’re figuring out some other sustainable infrastructure challenges. Surely if we can figure out how to safely house astronauts for long stints on the International Space Station in a big expandable chamber, we can handle our own terrestrial challenges. Thank you for your time.
Building a Sustainable Infrastructure at NASA
Calvin F. Williams
Chief Sustainability Officer,
Office of Strategic
8Goddard Space Flight Center – James Webb Telescope
Over 2/3rds of all
real property value is
within 16 feet of sea
level ($20B value)
Johnson Space Center
...and are already feeling
impacts regardless of
Kennedy Space Center
Our Facilities Energy Bill for FY2015: $130M
Utilities unit cost increases outpace NASA’s consumption reductions
Policies to Incorporate Sustainability
• Rigorous Master Planning process to
ensure right assets for the mission
• Balancing demolition and new
• Set LEED Standard and Guiding Principles
for High-Performance Buildings
• Striving toward Zero Energy/Water
• Sustainable Office
• LEED Silver
• Also won two Green
Globe awards from
the Green Building
• 20,000 gallon
for storing irrigation
Marshall Space Flight Center
• Many energy-savings
• Uses 30% less energy
than typical office
• Uses 30% less water
• Power Usage Effectiveness
of 1.5 or lower
• Consolidates 5 Data Centers
and over 30 Server Rooms
Langley Research Center
Katherine Johnson Computational Lab
Kennedy Space Center
• LEED New Construction
• Our first carbon-neutral
facility; it will produce
enough energy onsite
from renewable sources
to offset what it requires
nature of our
who can work
on both of
• LEED New
including 30 of
35 credits in
• Includes 36 KW
solar PV system.
Armstrong Flight Research
Center - Main Administrative
Facilities Support Center
‘Old School’ Skills
‘New School’ Skills
Reducing Our Footprint of Old and
Historic Hangars -
Ames Research Center