There's a Platinum Future in the New Headquarters Building
By: Jim Hodges
and Denise Lineberry
After Lesa Roe had watched New Town Phase I go up for 23 months, after hearing about the environmentally friendly technology in it, even after working in the building for six weeks, there remained an unknown at Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony at NASA's Langley Research Center.
Accompanied by a standing ovation from more than 300 on hand under a large tent adjacent to the new structure, architect Dana Pomeroy presented Roe with a plaque signifying "Platinum" status in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
She had expected gold.
"It did surprise me," said Roe, Langley's center director, smiling like what Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va. 2nd) described as "a proud parent."
"This is fantastic," Roe said. "What a wonderful, wonderful thing."
The LEED rating has been a part of New Town since the project was broached more than six years ago. A score is generated by a point system in which the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) rates construction in several environmentally friendly areas, including sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.
New Town Phase I – now called Building 2101—had 52 points, just inside the platinum scale.
"When we submitted the scorecard two weeks ago, we thought we had 54 points," said architect Ed Weaver. "But they always take a hard look at it and usually take something away."
Center Operations Directorate officials got the word of the "platinum" award on Tuesday and sprang it on a delighted Roe and the audience Friday.
The announcement was the penultimate event of a 40-minute ceremony, followed by a ribbon-cutting with Roe, Woodrow Whitlow, NASA's associate administrator for Mission Support and a former Langley engineer; Rob Hewell, regional commissioner of the General Services Administration; and Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va. 1st), Rigell and Randy Forbes (R-Va. 4th) wielding giant scissors.
"This building dramatically signifies a new Langley and is the first element in our revitalization plan," Roe told the assembly. "This is strategy to create the future."
The new headquarters is the first new building at NASA Langley in 35 years, since Building 1209 was constructed. Building 2101 is a $26 million, 79,000-square-foot structure that houses NASA Langley Headquarters and all or parts of six administrative organizations. It's the first of a planned $330 million program to replace and upgrade center facilities with the future in mind.
And, Whitlow reminded, Building 2101 is at the forefront of a 40-year agency plan to revitalize all 10 of its centers with future work in technology and innovation in mind.
"There is a great example of what NASA does in the technology that's applied here in this building," said Wittman. "It's a symbol. It might even be more of an icon. This is what NASA represents, this kind of innovation, this kind of creativity, this kind of advancement of science. This is a great example of all of that."
Added Rigell, acknowledging that industry would do well to adopt LEED standards: "Government can and does have a proper role to build something like this. It' s an opportunity for new technology to be built into the building. And for the builder to develop more expertise in building a LEEDS building."
Said Forbes: "Projects like this send a message to a whole generation of young Americans. … I think buildings like this and what is done here at NASA continues to implant those ideas and thoughts in a whole new generation of Americans."
All of the congressmen, along with staff members and other elected officials toured the new headquarters building, learning about some of the environmentally friendly technology incorporated in it and about the center's history.
In a hallway outside Roe's third-floor office, they saw a grandfather clock that dates back to 1919, when the center was only two years old. And they saw blades from a fan from the recently razed 16-foot transonic wind tunnel, now embedded in the ceiling in two places just down the hall from the clock.
Another group of local elected officials and others followed. All learned of plans for the future, with the next building expected to break ground next spring. All told, six new buildings are planned.
Even though the new headquarters building has a name and number, it remains part of the New Town concept.
"It was coined and it clicked," said Cindy Lee, Langley's associate administrator. "It stuck. We never actually intended to stick with it."
But New Town remains, with an intent to linger for a long time in new buildings to house laboratories for science and engineering.
"To me, it shows that we have a strong, vibrant future," Roe said. "This is just the first step. And we're going to keep pushing. It's critical to NASA's future. It's a 'must-do.' "
The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman