How NASA is changing the world

The circular economy as daily practice
PostedFebruary 17, 2016, in  Step 6: continuous innovation
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‘Zero waste’, nothing on the garbage dump. That is the number one goal of the circular economy. It seems like an almost impossible task but appearances are deceiving: at NASA they are working every day on innovative solutions to avoid waste. Remember, in space you have to do with what you have. Then a ‘closed loop’ is the only solution. That knowledge is also easy to apply in office environments.

Waste is not an option

Imagine: you’re flying to Mars and move into a permanent space station for a couple of years. Food, clothing, utensils: everything you need will have to be taken with you from home. Scarcity prevails since new stocks are highly unlikely, you can’t rely on them. Discarding something by definition means the loss of valuable commodities and stocks. Waste is not an option. All products must be suitable for a ‘closed loop’, a continuous cycle of use and re-use.

Photo: Inhabitat, Flickr Creative Commons

Closed loop

NASA is ahead of its time as a pioneer when it comes to the circular economy. Long before the sustainability trend, NASA was focusing on ‘closed loop’ technologies. That knowledge can also be used in office environments, as NASA’s Sustainability Base shows. Because of its extremely sustainable performance this building has earned the LEED Platinum certificate. Here is some of the space travel technology used:

  • The Sustainability Base uses only 10% water in comparison to similar offices. Waste water is recycled with a system inspired by what is used on the ISS space station.
  • By its position and the design of the building, sunlight can penetrate everywhere, even in the middle. Artificial light is only needed 40 days per year.
  • Energy is generated from the sun, wind and earth (geothermal energy). In addition, the Sustainability Base has a Bloom Energy fuel cell, clean technology based on sand.
  • The Internet of Things is commonplace at NASA. The Sustainability Base is self-regulating thanks to a finely-meshed network of sensors that produce a constant flow of relevant data. For example, sunlight, wind and weather forecasts, and also the extent to which people and computers give off heat. Nice detail: the staff agendas are automatically read out, so the occupancy rate per location is always transparent.
  • Despite all the technology, there’s also room for Mother Nature. Outside the company walls workplaces have been created. Inside, natural lighting and fresh air has been used as much as possible. If you look outside through a window, is treated to a delightful panorama: after all, a nice view belongs in a sustainable work climate.  

The best of both worlds

The Sustainability Base is extremely economical and comfortable. The best of both worlds. An inspiring example of how to do things differently. Or rather: what possibilities we can expect.  Because sooner or later these technologies will find their way to the market. Still not convinced? The internet is also a by-product of space technology. It is actually just like in space: the Sky is the Limit!  

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Every month, a new sustainability topic is discussed on the Each topic is discussed in detail in three blog articles. At the end of the month the articles are bundled in a newsletter. In February 2016 the central topic is the circular economy.

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PostedFebruary 17, 2016, in Step 6: continuous innovation
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