NASA Podcasts

Green Touches Energize Kennedy's Newest Facility
01.27.11
 
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Bob Cabana/NASA's Kennedy Space Center Director: One, two, three…

Narrator: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center rang in 2011 with the grand opening of the agency’s greenest facility on January 20. The Propellants North Administrative and Maintenance Facility is the new hub for fueling support personnel and a storage facility for cryogenic fuel transfer equipment for spacecraft that will embark on journeys to unlock the mysteries of the universe… while the building itself taps into Earth's natural resources.

Bob Cabana/NASA's Kennedy Space Center Director: How can you not be enthused about something that requires zero energy? I think it's fantastic. It actually puts more energy out than it requires to run in a 24-hour period. This is our start. This is setting the standard.

Narrator: A few days before the ribbon cutting ceremony, we caught up with Frank Kline, a project manager with NASA Construction of Facilities, to talk about how Propellants North will be a test bed for more environmentally friendly projects.

Project Manager Frank Kline/NASA Construction of Facilities: Honestly, I feel this is probably one of the best facilities we have in the agency and nationwide. There's not many buildings that can meet the same criteria that we met here. This facility is going to give NASA the data to prove that these things do what the vendors actually say they do. So that's what we're doing in this building. We're checking what the vendors tell us is truly green to make sure it meets what they're saying.

Narrator: The test bed begins with a parking lot of the future. For less than $1.50 a day, an electric or hybrid vehicle can plug into this nearby solar-powered charging canopy.

Project Manager Frank Kline/NASA Construction of Facilities: This right here will give, will hopefully give folks an incentive to buy electric cars and have a place to plug in.

Narrator: The eight-car station can be used for government or personal vehicles to reduce dependency on gas. Using the sun’s power doesn't stop outside, either. More than 300 photovoltaic panels are expected to produce more energy than will be used at Propellants North, making it the space agency's first net-zero facility. Even the orientation of the building on the property maximizes sunlight, decreasing the demand for energy.

Project Manager Frank Kline/NASA Construction of Facilities: The whole system was designed and constructed by NASA with very little outside help. So we, I take a lot of pride in that. The system works really well. We've had experts come in and give us kudos on how well the system is actually functioning.

Narrator: Net-zero also includes water conservation. A 7,500-gallon rainwater harvesting system supplies H2O to the toilets and sprinklers. When treated, that same water is safe for drinking and hand washing. Revered as American icons, NASA’s spaceflight history adorns the walls. Other artwork brightly contrasts the power of spacecraft propellants and the peace of the raw nature and wildlife that exists in harmony at Kennedy. While most of its features are brand-new, Propellants North also is steeped in rich history. Outside, crawlerway rocks that were crushed during space shuttle treks to Kennedy's launch pads are used as a substitute for mulch. Inside, a striking piece of Kennedy history is prominently displayed in the lobby.

Project Manager Frank Kline/NASA Construction of Facilities: We're actually looking at the recovered LCC glazing and framing that we saved out of the Launch Control Center. To me, this is the million dollar view from this facility. You have the same view as you did, looking out in 1964 from the Launch Control Center, set at the same angle and orientation as in the firing rooms.

Narrator: Kline and his team even insisted that the windows be left in their original state with the salt air stains on the outside and a nicotine patina on the inside from when NASA allowed smoking in the firing rooms. Propellants North also is an uber-smart facility.

Project Manager Frank Kline/NASA Construction of Facilities: These two switches are part of the automated light control system for this room. As you notice, there's really high windows. So we get a lot of daylight into this facility, especially the second floor.

Narrator: Even the air-conditioning system is pretty clever. Its efficiency comes from the highly insulated roof and walls as well as a thermostat that regulates the temperature and relative humidity up to 5 feet above the ground, which is where most people spend their time.

Project Manager Frank Kline/NASA Construction of Facilities: This system works from the ground up. Hot air rises, so the air conditioning here starts from the floor and goes up. Kind of the opposite from what a normal facility would be… pushing cold air down.

Narrator: The system requires no duct work, because the air flows underneath the facility's sustainable bamboo flooring. Vents in each work station can even be relocated for the comfort of the occupants. The system also goes a step further and monitors the CO2 levels in the building. As the number of people in the facility increases, the system will detect when more fresh air is required. Propellants North is using an energy-saving feature that could be added to existing Kennedy facilities in the near future. Called a controlled power station, when an occupant leaves their work area for an extended period of time, it will turn everything using electricity off except their computer. This small step could greatly reduce an existing facility's monthly power bill. The design team's attention to energy-efficient detail didn't escape the restrooms. Hygienic hand dryers blast water from hands in seconds much like a power dryer at a car wash. And the showers and sinks are made to conserve as well.

Project Manager Frank Kline/NASA Construction of Facilities: All the fixtures are high-efficiency fixtures and they're all automated, so you don't have to touch them… they are touchless. And they're super-low flow, so you use very little water.

Narrator: While Propellants North will be working for its occupants, its occupants will need to develop a green thumb of their own to maintain the center's reuse, recycle and repurpose efforts.

Project Manager Frank Kline/NASA Construction of Facilities: As you can see, we have bins for plastic, aluminum cans, white paper, cardboard. The whole idea is to change people's habits to not throw things away. We can recycle most things nowadays. So, we try to reduce what ends up in the landfill.

Narrator: The construction crew had the same concept in mind throughout the year-and-a-half building phase. To date, 98 percent of all waste, totaling 664 tons, was diverted from landfill disposal. The environmentally friendly, net-zero energy, water conserving, super clean and super smart building is a cost-saving step toward the future… and is part of a bigger picture for NASA.

Mike Benik/Kennedy Center of Operations Director: An agencywide focus on green initiatives has resulted in implementing ways to produce renewable energy, conserving energy and water, and utilizing environmentally friendly materials.

Bob Cabana/NASA's Kennedy Space Center Director: I think it's the future for us here at the Kennedy Space Center. I think we're going to add more facilities like this and eventually get to where some of our old 1960s infrastructure has been updated and brought to new standards.

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