NASA Opens 118 KSF Biomedical Lab

The three-story facility, which was designed by HDR to achieve LEED Silver certification, incorporates innovative technological, sustainable and energy-efficient features.

NASA Human Health and Performance Laboratory in Houston
NASA Human Health and Performance Laboratory in Houston

The Johnson Space Center at NASA in Houston has opened the Human Health and Performance Laboratory (Building 21), a 118,000-square-foot biomedical laboratory facility, designed by HDR based on NASA technical requirements.

The facility is home for the JSC Human Health and Performance Directorate, the primary agency organization focused on improving the health of astronauts and their performance while mitigating the human system risks associated with spaceflight. 

In all, the facility houses 17 laboratories, 44 offices, 250 open workstations, eight huddle rooms, four conference rooms, three break rooms and one landscaped courtyard. It also contains 2,000 information technology connections, with 1,200 activated already for occupancy. 

The building was designed to meet the NASA vision for a reconfigurable, flexible facility and HDR ensured it could adapt to meet constantly evolving human spaceflight mission and exploration needs of the Agency.

“This (building) is the heart of NASA’s biomedical research and operations for human spaceflight, and where innovations will originate to address important astronaut health risks resulting from exploration beyond low-Earth orbit,” Judith Hayes, chief of the biomedical research and environmental sciences division within the Human Health and Performance Directorate, said.

The site placement of the three-story building was constructed at an angle to both the street and the square grid of the JSC campus, which improves solar orientation and marks a bold departure from the existing campus. The building’s exterior materials, colors and texture are also a far contrast from the old site.

“The north-side wall is covered in contrasting black glossy and flat black stone, designed to mimic a DNA sequence,” Joel Walker, Johnson’s director of center operations, said. “The crosswalk from Building 45 to Building 21 also contains a DNA artistic representation in keeping with the theme of the building.”

The exterior landscape also features the celestial geometry of the solar system, including the movement of the planets and moons orbiting around the sun.

Sustainable development

The NASA building was designed to achieve LEED Silver certification and incorporates many innovative technological, sustainable and energy-efficient features. Some standout features include the use of solar shading devices that optimally orient to provide daylight with minimum glare to the workers within and stairwells with quality finishes and natural daylight to encourage healthy stair use. Building 21’s construction also used a great deal of recycled content.

“At NASA, we are embarking on perhaps the greatest journey ever attempted,” Hayes said. “The critical path for humans going to Mars will pass through this facility, where our multidisciplinary science teams will enable astronauts to pioneer that next giant leap in exploration.”

Image courtesy of HDR