NASA Ames 'Tops Out' First Building in Thirty Years

The final beam was placed as the building, called Sustainability Base, reached its height and completed its skeletal structure"Beam me up!" was the message signed on the final beam hoisted into place on the iron skeleton of NASA’s new building, called Sustainability Base, Friday, March 12, 2010.

Although not yet completed, Sustainability Base has begun ushering in a new era of innovation, good will and renewed American tradition. Under construction at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., the building advances the standard for what it means to be “green.” Sustainability Base is expected to achieve a platinum rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for environmentally sustainable. The building, however, goes beyond LEED to serve as a showcase of NASA and partner ingenuity, incorporating technologies designed for space exploration and applied to improve life here on our home planet. Sustainability Base will be a window to the future on Earth.

"It will be one of the greenest and highest performance building in the federal government," said Steve Zornetzer, associate administrator of NASA Ames. "Today is a good day to celebrate. It's a good day to stop, reflect and show appreciation for work that was well done."

It will be one of the greenest and highest performance buildings in the federal government, said Steve Zornetzer, associate administrator of NASA AmesTogether, NASA and Swinerton Builders workers and management signed the final beam as part of a celebration, called the "Topping Out." No one really knows how or when it originated, but the tradition places an evergreen tree, a flag or both on the last beam as it is lifted into place, it signifies the structure has reached its height and the skeleton is completed.

"As a company, we are proud to be part of a green effort that is so successful," said Dan Beyer, vice president of Swinerton Builders., San Francisco, Calif. "The tree signifies new growth as the building construction comes to fruition and is used over time; the flag represents who we are as Americans."

Over the years, the Topping Out custom remains important to ironworkers in the steel construction industry. For some, the evergreen symbolizes the successful completion of construction without loss of life, for others, it’s a good luck charm for the occupants. Similarly, the flag also has multiple meanings: the construction of a federal building, patriotism, or the American dream. Whatever the interpretation, it welcomes the future while providing a link with the past.

"We need buildings like this to bring back America," said John W. Elwood, vice president of Swinerton, Builders, Santa Clara, Calif. "The flag represents our full support for our country and our American troops. The evergreen tree is our good luck charm."

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