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NEWS | Oct. 10, 2014

NRL's Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research Recognized for Sustainable Design

By Donna McKinney

The Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR), located at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, DC, has achieved LEED silver certification. LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a sustainable building certification program, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, which recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. The LEED system of certification is recognized globally, and rates buildings in a way that addresses the unique needs and characteristics of each building. LEED helps building owners and operators be environmentally responsible, use resources more efficiently, and reduce long-term operational costs, while amplifying human health and wellbeing.

To receive LEED certification, building projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Richard Fedrizzi, USGBC president, recognizes NRL's LASR facility as a showcase example of sustainable design. The LEED certification process for LASR began early on in design, was monitored during construction, and finally was validated during the first year of operation and use. The project achieved LEED goals in 32 separate categories.

Compared to similar facilities, NRL's LASR facility was designed and constructed with features that reduce the impact on the environment, including a 30% water and 21% energy reduction, an energy-efficient reflective roof, and zero domestic water use for landscaping. These factors will result in significant on-going cost savings and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to continue in the future.

LASR's initial environmental impacts were reduced by restoring and mitigating the existing site conditions, using enhanced refrigerant management, using recycled content construction materials, and recycling of 75% of construction waste.

Researchers, staff, and guests in the LASR facility will enjoy improved conditions with features such as ventilation system monitoring, maximized open space, thermal comfort controls and the use of low Volitile Organic Compound (VOC) emitting products for improved air quality. NRL broke ground on the LASR facility on April 8, 2010 and it opened for business in March 2012. This one-of-a-kind laboratory provides specialized facilities to support highly innovative research in intelligent autonomy, sensor systems, power and energy systems, human-system interaction, networking and communications, and platforms. LASR will support a broad range of research related to autonomous systems, from basic, to applied, and for integration across different disciplines. Some of its unique features include:
  • Prototyping High Bay, which is used for small autonomous air and ground vehicles, and the people who work with them. This space contains the world's largest real-time motion capture volume, allowing scientists to get extremely accurate ground truth of the motion of vehicles and people, as well as allowing closed loop control of systems.
  • Littoral High Bay, with a 45-foot by 25-foot by 5.5-foot deep pool with a wave generator capable of producing directional waves, and a slope that allows littoral environments to be recreated.
  • Desert High Bay, with a 40-foot by 14-foot area of sand 2.5-feet deep, and 18-foot-high rock walls that allow testing of robots and sensors in a desert-like environment.
  • Tropical High Bay, with a 60-foot by 40-foot greenhouse that contains a re-creation of a southeast Asian rain forest.
  • Outdoor test range, with a 1/3rd acre highland forest with a waterfalls, stream and pond, and terrain of differing difficulty, including large boulder structures and earthen berms.
  • Electrical and machine shops, which allow prototypes to be constructed. The facility includes several types of 3D prototyping machines allowing parts to be directly created from CAD drawings. LASR also has a dedicated sensor lab that includes large environmental and altitude chambers and an anechoic chamber, as well as a power and energy lab.
Alan Schultz is Director of NRL's LASR and Darrell King is the Facilities Manager.

LEED is the most widely recognized and widely used green building program across the globe. LEED is certifying 1.5 million square feet of building space each day in 135 countries. Today, more than 54,000 projects are currently participating in LEED, comprising more than 10.1 billion square feet of construction space. The LASR facility achieved LEED silver certification under the LEED for New Construction Rating System.

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