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NASA and the NZEB: NASA has taken a 'just the facts' approach as it strives for net-zero energy use at its new building at the Kennedy Space Center.

Hard data is the coin of the realm at NASA. Guesswork certainly won't do and even trust but verify won't suffice. Verify and verify again is more like it.

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Enter the Propellant North Administrative and Maintenance Facility in Cape Canaveral, FL--an 11,340-sq ft, two-building complex, comprised of offices and a smaller building that serves as a hub for fueling spacecraft. Completed in January of this year, the facility is now serving as a potential prototype for future NASA buildings, with everything from a solar-powered charging station for electric cars to a rainwater harvesting sys-tem being evaluated for their ability to slash energy use. Those design choices may launch the facility beyond mere energy efficiency to the rarefied status of net-zero energy building (NZEB).

Lighting, though, may prove to be the biggest springboard to NZEB. "The facility actually generates more energy than it re-quires during a 24-hour period, and our ability to do that is largely attributed to advanced lighting solutions," says Frank Kline, a NASA Construction of Facilities project manager. "Lighting typically consumes 40 percent of a building's energy, so it has a great impact when technology and products are applied appropriately."

A mix of solar panels, daylighting and controls are being used to drive down energy use. The solar panels, Kline says, provide the main piece of evidence thus far that the new building is, in fact, achieving net-zero energy status. "We don't have enough data yet, so it's a little gray as to whether this is actually a net-zero energy building, but based on the model we created before construction, we do know that the energy produced by the solar panels is offsetting the estimated energy consumption rate," says Kline.

The roof-mounted solar panels--336 total--produce 78,960 watts (which extrapolates to about 150,000 kWh per year assuming 5.2 hours per day/365 days per year of operation). In line with the building's purpose as a test bed for future projects, the roof-mounted solar panels all face due south but at slightly different angles, which may allow NASA to determine which angle is best for capturing sunlight.

DAYLIGHT TAKES OFF

Daylighting and controls are the second piece of the NZEB puzzle. Natural light floods the two-story structure through 12- and 14-ft high windows on the north facade, which is entirely glass. An interesting side benefit of daylighting was the chance to create a monument of sorts inside the building. In a nod to nostalgia, NASA repurposed the large windows and frames from the original launch control center to maximize available daylight in the office areas. "We've all seen the launch control center; it's where they 'push the button," says Kline. "The windows from 1966 were no longer efficient and were being torn out." Kline's team claimed the windows, still in their original frames, and installed them on the interior. The windows are set at the same orientation and angle as they were in the launch control center, looking out toward Launch Complex 39.

The controls portion of the project, meanwhile, afforded Kline the chance to validate vendor claims and generate hard data. First, to prove the systems' effectiveness to NASA management, he retrofitted new controls and fixtures into a small office and saw a significant reduction in electricity use. Management tested the system and provided feedback; it was easy to use, improved occupant comfort and achieved cost savings.

A combination of lighting controls was needed in four enclosed office spaces. Since the walls in the office areas are largely comprised of windows, the situation called for a wireless lighting control solution with remote operating capabilities. The following strategies (using Lutron products) were used:

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* Wireless wall-mounted controls. Employees who occupy glass-enclosed offices can control lighting levels to maximize daylight in interior offices.

* Dimming ballasts. The ballasts are capable of dimming to less than 10 percent of full power and provide fl exibility for employees to dim lights to preferred levels for different tasks. They can also be reconfigured to different switches, groupings and settings without rewiring.

* Daylight harvesting. Large windows capture sunlight and naturally illuminate the space, allowing daylight sensors to dim or turn off electric lights based on the natural light. In the first few months, daylight harvesting has resulted in a more than 40 percent de-crease in energy consumption associated with artificial lighting when compared to similar lighting fixtures without controls.

* Occupancy sensing. Infrared occupancy sensors turn lights off when a space is empty and turn lights on when a person enters a space. Because these sensors are used in interior spaces frequently left empty, like restrooms, energy savings is 100 percent when vacant.

Kline adds that the "the best result coming out of implementing the lighting controls was the transparency to the occupants. They don't even notice light levels automatically changing throughout the day. The lighting system saves a lot of energy without requiring the occupants to put any thought or effort into helping do so."

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PAY IT FORWARD

The project could have a ripple effect throughout NASA and across other federal agencies, especially when you consider that the federal government is the nation's largest landlord and energy consumer; about $7 billion is spent annually on energy for federal facilities, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences. Not surprisingly, a fair chunk of Kline's time is spent showing off his trophy building, which is designed to be 52 percent more energy-efficient than a traditional commercial building and is certified as LEED Platinum. "We're doing about two or three tours per week and have had about 3,000 to 4,000 people come through."

For NASA, itself, the project offers a blueprint as to where to allocate resources for future building projects. Once the agency has hard data over a longer test period, it can ask, "do we put our money into lighting? Do we put it into HVAC?" explains Kline. "I hope this is just the start. Highly efficient, sustainable building is what we're about. From now on, we'll model this to the bigger buildings. My advice to other federal agencies embarking on similar building projects is to conduct research to find the best vendor for each type of product or service, combine them, model and see what you get."

RELATED ARTICLE: METRICS THAT MATTER

NASA Propellants North Administrative and Maintenance Facility

Estimated energy generated/used: 150,000 kWh per year

Number of solar panels: 336 (using 235 watts per panel) LEED Platinum certified
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Title Annotation:PROJECTS THAT POINT
Author:Tarricone, Paul
Publication:LD+A Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 2011
Words:1081
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