NASA and UC Berkeley’s planned Berkeley Space Center to serve as “testbed” for low carbon construction

The University of California, Berkeley is teaming up with NASA, San Francisco-based property developer SKS Partners and others to build a new Berkeley Space Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

UC Berkeley said the proposed Berkeley Space Center project would include 1.4 million square feet of offices, research labs, conference rooms and academic space on 36 acres of land within the NASA Research Park at the agency’s Ames Research Center.

The university said that it expected the buildings would “serve as a testbed to pioneer and advance novel low-carbon design and construction practices.”

The proposed Berkeley Space Center. Image: UC Berkeley

These include: phytoremediation, where landscape design and maintenance will clean groundwater aquifers; alternative low-carbon energy sources, such as photo-voltaic panels for power generation in place of natural gas; on-site treatment and retention of stormwater; the use of recycled water for both landscaping and within the buildings themselves; and multiple modes of movement and transportation to and within the site, with a focus on pollution-free mobility.

In its statement, the university said that the “environmental entitlement process” has commenced and is expected to last approximately two years, with construction scheduled to begin in 2026.

It said the project would be built in multiple phases and would eventually generate annual revenues of at least $40 million from multiple project-related sources, including the income earned from the real estate revenue as well as grants, research funding, philanthropy, industry partners, and fees.

“Similar to how innovations in aerospace research pushed the physical boundaries of where humans can go, Berkeley Space Center aspires to establish new standards for how buildings are designed, constructed and operated to minimize the carbon impact,” said Dan Kingsley, co-founder and managing partner of SKS Partners. “UC Berkeley and SKS Partners share a commitment to building a carbon-free future for humanity, and Berkeley Space Center is the ideal incubator to develop new ideas to achieve that goal.”

Co-master planners on the project also include architects HOK and landscape specialist Field Operations. The joint-venture partnership has selected CBRE to market the R&D space for lease.

Focused on conducting world-class research and development in aeronautics and exploration technology since 1939, NASA’s Ames Research Center features the world’s largest wind tunnel, which is capable of simulating gusts up to 100 knots, as well as The NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division, Arc Jet Complex and NASA’s Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS).

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