Can we ever achieve a truly sustainable building? With green technologies being introduced to the market at a rapid pace, we are seeing a proliferation of options for attaining such a goal. However, some developments on the horizon could pave the way for even bigger and better things moving forward.

For instance, Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., is collaborating with NASA Ames Research Center, www.arc.nasa.gov, Moffett Field, Calif., on research and development around new technology that can help increase the energy efficiency of buildings. In particular, these efforts are designed to help monitor and optimize the operational lifecycle of high-performance buildings.

Under the initiative, researchers from Autodesk Research and NASA look to implement Autodesk Project Dasher, which is a BIM (building information modeling) platform that provides building owners with insight into realtime building performance throughout the lifecycle of a building, at the NASA Ames Sustainability Base. This base is a 50,000-sq.ft., office building and showcase for technologies that enhance resource utilization, including those developed by NASA for its space and aeronautics missions.

The NASA Ames Sustainability Base became the ideal choice for such a project, according to Autodesk, due to its specialized sustainability features. On-site power generation from photovoltaics and a solid oxide fuel cell provide more electricity than the facility requires and contribute excess capacity to the NASA Ames local grid, says Autodesk.

“NASA Ames operates Sustainability Base not only as an attractive workspace and a high-performing facility, but as a dynamic laboratory for advancing technologies for the built environment. An accurately detailed building information model, accessible and useful to facility operators, is a critical component to managing buildings effectively. Through our collaboration with Autodesk and implementation of Project Dasher, we hope to optimize the lifecycle operations of, and achieve unprecedented operational efficiencies with, Sustainability Base while helping to contribute to industry best practices for use of BIM in building performance management,” says Dr. Rose Grymes, technical lead for sustainability at NASA Ames Research Center.

The interesting part of this initiative will be with Autodesk Project Dasher. This experimental technology is designed to provide the interactive building management capabilities. The system has the potential to provide continuous evaluations in order to verify building performance. The idea is to provide more than simply a dashboard that represents a comprehensive framework for monitoring building performance. Instead, Project Dasher could act as a visualization hub where collected data from myriad sources is aggregated intelligently and then presented in 3D. According to Autodesk, this can enhance the ability of building owners and operators to make a more solid connection between complex causal relationships pertaining to building performance and overall operational requirements.

In the case of the project with NASA, such data will help enable the on-going optimization of facility functions, which remain critical in high-performance buildings. Autodesk is fully committed with researchers being actively engaged with NASA Ames architects, planners, researchers, and facilities engineers to develop and test the visualization and analytical tools inside Project Dasher to better address the gap between design and operations.

Exciting developments continue to happen with construction technology. But perhaps the most exciting developments are still in the experimental phase. Could we be close to true sustainability with buildings? It will be an interesting trend to monitor.