In keeping with the State of New Mexico’s commitment to sustainability, Spaceport America has incorporated sustainable programs that include design, construction, and operations of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space facility. On this basis, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) utilized the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED NCv2.2 program as the framework for the sustainable development of Spaceport America. The LEED Rating System is generally recognized as being the most prominent set of sustainability guidelines in the United States by emphasizing strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality. By pursuing a variety of sustainable elements, buildings that pursue LEED Certification may achieve 1 of the 4 following certification levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Earth Tube Labyrinth in the Gateway Building

Earth Tube Labyrinth in the Gateway Building

Through a fully integrated design, construction, and operations team, the team has worked together to successfully design, quantify, and document the sustainable design and construction achievements of the Gateway building. Balancing the selection of LEED credits to enhance the benefits from the investment was a key focus of the sustainable process on this project. In order to maximize the efficiency through which the LEED certification is achieved, the team focused, where practical, on LEED credits which have synergies. In doing so, the Gateway is on track to achieve LEED NC 2.2 Gold Certification.

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Read more about Spaceport America’s sitewide sustainability features in the report: Spaceport America – Sustainable Design and Construction in the Desert

Sustainable Highlights:

Sustainable Site – The rural nature of the site reduced the project’s ability to earn a few Sustainable Site credits, however the team worked diligently to implement sustainable design concepts throughout the building and site. The team believes the project is helping to reduce CO2 emissions associated with transportation to and from the Gateway by providing a public shuttle to reduce visitor and occupant single vehicle travel. Carpool and low emitting fuel vehicle parking is provided on-site.

Water Efficiency – Water Efficiency is a key focus in the New Mexico high desert, as there is a natural shortage of water resources. Low flow fixtures and toilets are incorporated throughout to reduce the demand on potable water by 34%. The landscaping includes native and adaptive species requiring zero irrigation. 100% of treated wastewater is recycled within the campus wastewater treatment plant for non-potable uses.

Energy and Atmosphere – According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings consume approximately 57% of energy and 68% of the electricity produced in the United States. In acknowledgment of this overconsumption of energy, several strategies are incorporated to reduce the building’s energy consumption. The facility uses Earth Tubes embedded within the western earthen berms to draw air into earth for pre-conditioning before it enters the chillers. Underfloor radiant cooling and heating and the use of chilled beams both reduce the energy footprint as well. Exterior glass curtain walls are coated in low-e glazing to mitigate interior greenhouse effects. The project takes advantage of skylights to provide natural interior daylight. These efforts combine to help the building reduce its energy consumption by 31%.

Materials and Resources – Considering the embodied energy in building materials and the large amount of construction and demolition rates, the project diverted construction waste and specified products with recycled content, regional materials and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Construction contractors sourced all gravel, sand and aggregate used in the construction of the airfield and apron from quarries located only a few miles away, reducing the carbon footprint of trucking and associated dust pollution.

Indoor Environmental Quality – In an effort to create a comfortable and healthy work environment the project will provide effective ventilation and reduce pollutants in the building. Low-emitting materials are specified for the project and an IAQ Construction Management Plan for before and after occupancy are planned to further improve the air quality. To provide occupant comfort, lighting controls system allows for the on/off and dimming control of each individual light. Fixtures can be controlled from programmable local controls within the space or by PC based software.

Innovation and Design – The NMSA developed Green Cleaning and an Integrated Pest Management Programs to reduce exposure of building occupants and maintenance personnel to potentially hazardous chemical contaminants that adversely impact air quality, occupant well-being, and the environment.

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