NASA's First Leed™-Certified Building Constructed at Marshall Space Flight Center

March 7, 2007

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama completed construction on Building 4600, a five-story 139,000 square foot office building designed to incorporate many energy efficient and sustainable features. Building 4600 is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council, and recently became NASA's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEE™)-certified building. This building was also recognized as an exceptional model of energy efficiency, innovation, and sustainable design by the Federal Energy Management Program, and is one of four buildings selected to receive a 2005 Federal Energy Saver Showcase award.

Photo of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.
George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Office Building 4600

Building 4600's orientation along an east-west axis plays an integral role in its sustainable design, minimizing sun exposure and shielding narrow ends using horizontal sun shades and vertical fins. This orientation and cladding, combined with a white ENERGY STAR® roof membrane, reduces the building's susceptibility to heat gain and lowers its energy demand. Motion and perimeter light sensors also reduce the building's overall electricity requirements. Photovoltaic roof panels totaling 44 kilowatts of capacity collect energy that is converted to AC power and combined with the main electric grid, while excess power is stored in batteries for use at night. Additionally, use of the campus chilled water and steam system and heat recovery units help to further increase the building's energy performance.

Water discharged from the campus chilled water plant is distributed to a retention pond on the building site where it is combined with captured site water and rain water and used for landscape irrigation, saving more than 3.5 million gallons of potable water each year.

When designing the interior space, MSFC's energy team adopted the philosophy that a clean, well-lit, flexible work environment leads to increased productivity and employee satisfaction. An open office work environment was chosen to provide flexibility, encourage team interaction, and inspire creativity. Environmental and occupant health benefits include the elimination of construction waste, efficient air flow and light distribution, and greater access to daylight and views. Maximum daylight penetration is achieved by centralizing the building core and support elements. The large north and south portions of the floor plan remain open for lower height modular workstations that allow for either direct or indirect access to daylight and views for at least 90 percent of the occupants. Where privacy is required, traditional offices can be found along the east and west ends of the building.

Indoor air quality was also a key part of the design. During construction, an indoor air quality plan included sealing all ductwork prior to operation, cleaning tops of all ductwork prior to carpet and ceiling grid installation, keeping absorptive materials covered until installation, and using low VOC paints, adhesives, carpets, and furniture.

More than 20 percent by cost of the material used for the building, such as carpet fiber insulation and access flooring panels, is made of recycled content. Related environmental benefits of the structure type were also evaluated, with a steel structure chosen for the high level of recycled material used in manufacturing, as well as the low level of construction waste. The concrete used for foundations and floor slabs was specified to contain 20 percent fly ash in the mixture, reducing the amount of this post-industrial byproduct discarded into landfills. Additionally, during construction more than 85 percent of the waste was reused or recycled; industrial sized waste bins were marked for separation by material type and periodically taken to recycling plants.

All new construction at MSFC is planned to be certified at a LEE™ "Silver" rating, and the design for Building 4600 will be used as a model for all future office space in the surrounding area.

For more information, please contact Cedreck Davis of Marshall Space Flight Center at or 256-544-3221.