Some Shovels of Dirt Ring in NASA Langley's Future

With a push of her right foot on a shovel Friday morning, Lesa Roe celebrated the 92nd birthday of NASA's Langley Research Center by ushering in its future.

Helping Roe, Langley's center director, in breaking ground for New Town Building 1 were Hampton Mayor Molly Ward; Rob Hewell, from the General Services Administration, and Charles Scales, NASA associate deputy administrator.

New Town groundbreaking.
"We've waited and budgeted and planned for this day with a great deal of anticipation," Roe said. "New Town focuses on the future requirements of the center while maintaining our tradition of technical excellence."

The building will be the first of six in the project, which is expected to be constructed over 15 years. The six will include three laboratories, a second office building and a joint-use facility.

Groundbreaking for Building 2 is expected in 2011.

Building 1 will house administrative offices in a three-story, $23 million, 72,000-square-foot structure built with an accent on environmental soundness. Construction will be aimed at the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

NASA construction requires "silver" status on a LEED certified, silver, gold, platinum scale. Building 1 is expected to attain "gold" in a review that will follow its completion.

Much of that rating will be generated by a building that will save approximately 85 percent of energy costs associated with a similar structure not built with conservation and cost consciousness in mind.

"The geothermal system is the big one," said Tom Quenville, who has nursed the New Town project along since 2004. "It has an underground heating and cooling system. … You're basically using the energy in the ground to heat and cool the building.

"And the 'green' roof is also new for us. We have all of these firsts for Langley: the first green roof, the first geothermal system."

The "green" roof will involve plants that will be grown on the top of the building to insulate it from the sun and hold in water.

The building also will have photo-voltaics on its roof to provide power. Better insulation and energy-efficient windows add to that environmental friendliness.

The 85 percent savings are based on a building model. An average building is said to use about 200,000 BTUs of energy per square foot per year. "Our building will be 29,000 BTUs per square foot," Quenville said.

Guests were effusive in their praise of the New Town concept.

"Welcome to the beginning of Langley's future," Scales told the assembly of about 200 under a tent on the building site along Langley Boulevard.

"One of the legacies of space exploration has been the focus that has been put back on Earth. We have learned just how fragile Earth is, so we need to do everything that we can to make sure that we take care of it. This new facility will help toward that."

Hewell lauded the companies involved, including Whiting-Turner, which is the prime contractor for Building 1.

Ward cited Langley's contribution to her city and the region, then later pointed to the national and local economies.

"It's exciting in these economic times to see something coming out of the ground," she said. "We're excited about the 'green' building technology.

"And we're excited about what it means for the future of Langley Research Center and for the investment the government is making here that shows a commitment to the center and to Hampton."

For Roe, New Town is the culmination of an effort that has been ongoing since she became center director five years ago. At that time, jobs were being lost and rumors ran rampant that the center's future was in jeopardy.

"This is a far cry from that," Roe said of New Town's benchmark status for a bright future for the center. "It means a lot. It's great for morale. It just brings excitement! And it's the first of these and the second one is on the way."

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