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USRA gave significant consideration to the three pillars of sustainability in making plans for our new headquarters building: The Social, Economic, and Environmental impacts of our new corporate home.

In 2012, USRA embarked on a major strategy, planning for our future corporate home. A large part of our planning was consideration of the Social, Economic, and Environmental impacts of a move to a new corporate headquarters.


USRA HQ Building Front

USRA chose to renovate an existing building to prevent our HQ from having a heavy footprint on the environment, which occurs every time trees and grass are traded for more concrete and black top.

USRA's HQ Newly Renovated Building Features:

  • High-efficiency lighting (to include occupancy sensors)
  • ENERGY STAR equipment and appliances
  • New energy efficient HVAC system
  • Finishes, furnishings and constructions materials (to include drywall, metal studs, acoustical ceilings, light fixtures, resilient flooring, wall finishes and new furniture) selected based on Low VOC, recycled content and regional materials. Conforms to SCS-EC-10.2-2007 and California Spec 01350)
  • Green cleaning processes
  • Close proximity to public transportation
  • Commitment to recycling (recycling containers at every workstation, desk, café and conference room)
  • USRA has applied for it's HQ Newly Renovated Building to be deemed LEED certified, (currently awaiting award of LEED designation)

USRA's Houston Office Charging Station

A car charging station at USRA's Houston, Texas Office also demonstrates these sustainability efforts.


The location in Columbia, Maryland is the same town in which we leased office space. This minimizes the impact on our headquarters staff and their commute time to work is virtually the same.


Build New or Buy an Existing Building

USRA HQ Exhibit

USRA considered purchasing land which was in another town (Greenbelt, Maryland), 30 minutes away from our current location. Had we executed on this option, it would have caused a significant burden on our personnel.

The relocation site we chose is in close proximity to public transportation, so that employees wishing to, can take advantage of that commuting option.


Renovating an Old Building
USRA HQ Exhibit

As part of the planning for reconstruction and retrofitting of USRA's new corporate HQ, the company conducted a thermal comfort survey of the employees. USRA also built out a dedicated exercise facility, with modern equipment, within the building (inclusive of changing rooms and showers.)


USRA HQ CafeUSRA has a fiduciary responsibility to our employees, customers, and university members. To meet these financial responsibilities, and to sustain our organization, USRA must earn revenue and working capital, operate in a fiscally responsible manner, and be good stewards of tax payer monies.

The long-term financial impact to USRA of owning its own building and having room to expand was deemed a financially sound investment and approved by its Board of Trustees USRA was granted exemption from commercial real estate taxes by the State of Maryland, to enhance the economic feasibly for the organization to carry out its non-profit purpose. Value engineering practices were employed to realize cost savings during renovation.

The new USRA corporate headquarters provides a productive working environment for our staff and benefits to both USRA and the surrounding community. Certain common meeting and educational spaces are provided at little, or no cost to customers and the public. The conference center within the building provides ample space for large meetings, and includes a state of the art audio visual and video conferencing system. The lobby of the building serves as an education center, open to the public, and showcases important space and Earth science missions, programs, and scientific and technological discoveries.

USRA's Houston Office Charging Station

A car charging station at USRA's Houston, Texas Office also demonstrates these sustainability efforts.

HQ Building Image Credits: Adrian Wilson


Infrared Astronomy to Explore  the Hidden Universe

Studying the universe using only visible light results in a very limited view. Designed to observe the infrared universe, SOFIA will be used to study many different kinds of astronomical objects and phenomena.