A green building called the Sustainability Base is being constructed at NASA’s Ames in Mountain View, Calif., and will serve as a testbed for intelligent systems that monitor and manage indoor conditions. The technology -- mostly software -- for the building comes from existing technology originally developed to do things like optimize systems on the International Space Station and plan missions on rovers. Read More
By Tracy Staedter | Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:07 PM ET
I called up Steve Zornetzer, associate center director at NASA Ames, to ask him more specifically how those mission technologies are being used in this energy efficient building. Here's what he had to say.
According to Zornetzer, the International Space Station has a computer system that keeps track of demands on resources, including temperature, electricity, water, lights, etc. It then manages the demand of those resources based on their availability.
For example, the Space Station is equipped with solar panels to harvest energy from the sun. During times when the sun is not shining directly on the panels, energy production is reduced. So the software may automatically shut down systems or turn off lights that are not being used.
The same thing can happen in an energy-efficient building. The software can access all of the information about the building and it's energy needs, plus it can access weather information from the Internet and scheduling information about conference rooms, for example. The software might calculate that on a particular day, when it's going to be 85 degrees outside and a meeting is scheduled in a particular room, that the air conditioning needs to be turned up between the hours of 10 am and noon. After the meeting, the air conditioning can be turned back down.
Software developed to optimize mission tasks assigned to rovers could be used to optimize energy resources in the building without interfering with the day-to-day work that people have to do. For example, a rover has software that looks at the available energy and then comes up with a plan for the rover to accomplish certain tasks (driving, scooping up dirt samples, taking pictures) in the most efficient order.
It will do the same for a building.
"It will sequence activities to optimize energy use," said Zornetzer.
The Sustainability Base, which is expected to be completed in November of 2010 and occupied in early 2011, will also save on water by using rain water for irrigation, and recycling gray water for flushing toilets. It will also use sky lights to bring in natural light and employ energy-efficient LED lighting for overhead lights.
"We expect it to be the greenest, if not among the greenest, government buildings," said Zornetzer.